I have played football since I was a child, only there were no girls’ teams then, but I started playing with my cousins and friends in my community. Since then, football has been the key to everything I have achieved and still have to achieve.


My name is Valeria Guzmán Leal; I am 27 years old and was born in Mexico City but am a native of Valle de Chalco.

When I was a kid, Sunday was my favorite day. This was because I could play football. I remember my aunt came up with the idea to sign up all our cousins who would play in the street, and together we started a league. This is how it began, every Sunday. I remember the first time I played against other people, I was so nervous. The adrenaline made my stomach feel weird, I can feel it to this day, and I can smell the earth; it was such a vivid experience. I remember my cousins’ laughs, hugs, and happy voices when we scored a goal.

I was inspired to play to improve my physical condition and to improve my technical skills. I dreamed of representing my country!

My love for football grew and evolved; it is much more than physical activity. Football and sport are important tools for social and mental transformation. For kids participating, it supports positive thinking, being assertive, having passion, and leaving negative thoughts behind.

I know this from personal experience, as football helps me feel good emotionally and sentimentally. For example, when I play, I take all my stress out of my day, or I forget about all my work tasks; I focus on my game to win, which makes me feel good.

Football has also led to new friendships and opportunities. Natlik is a local community organization that invited me to become a football coach in my municipality. As an organization, Natlik is committed to the children of our community through training and opportunities. They also rehabilitate spaces where children can play safely.

As a Coach for Natlik, I teach children values and other important topics and guide them to have another perspective of their environment.

A case that exemplifies the above is a child who was starting to go to training when his mother approached me as a coach and told me about her son’s situation. It turns out that the boy had recurring thoughts of suicide.

Even though I didn’t know what to do, I searched for information on the subject and began implementing techniques on the court to increase their positive energy. By integrating the child as captain of activities and conversations regarding suicide in sports activities, we raised his self-esteem and perseverance in participating in the program. Fortunately, his mother shared with us the change in attitude that her son presented, including better school performance.

Another case was a girl who spent time in the street with many boys taking drugs near the field. One day I decided to invite her to train, which she was reluctant to do, but I insisted until she agreed to go.

Gradually the girl began to be constant in her visits to the sessions. She even became interested in helping in training and developing games.

The girl thanks us for motivating her to change her life, understand the importance of attending school, and get ahead in a positive environment.

In both cases, football helped them get rid of their environment. More than that, the thematic conversations that we had focused on values helped them reflect on what they could do in their case, where to ask for help, how to ask for help, and from whom.

Undoubtedly, football served as a means to de-stress and meet new friends. Our job as coaches was to offer our sincere support so that they would place their trust in us and in the help we could offer them.

There have also been transformations for me personally. I am currently taking a degree in psychopedagogy as part of my commitment to helping the children of my community. Through this, I have learned to help children identify learning challenges by reflecting on psychological factors and their environment. After evaluating their challenges in the learning process, we look for strategies to overcome them.

Being a Coach in my community has also led to opportunities for me outside of the community. Natlik has a partnership with love.fútbol and Manchester City’s; City in the Community program. Through this, I have twice visited Manchester for the Young Leaders program. I have met many people from different parts of the world, and those trips and training have shaped my vision, and I have begun to see my environment and the needs of my country.

I remember getting on the plane, and my stomach felt like I had butterflies. I was immensely happy during the flight, I couldn’t believe I was seriously going to England and imagined everything that would happen when I arrived. It was a very special trip, not only because I was in a different country, trying things I had never experienced, and receiving training in the same place where great players train, but also because I shared my passion with people of different nationalities, received feedback to improve what I do. I had the opportunity to go to communities there.

Going for the second time made me feel very lucky. Each trip gave me a different perspective on my coaching abilities and the potential of the sessions I lead.
Currently, I train boys and girls from 7 to 16 years old. We meet Monday and Wednesday, and I’m proud the children experience a positive, fun environment within my sessions. I can see them developing positive, learning values and responses that are valuable daily throughout our lives.

Currently, I train boys and girls from 7 to 16 years old. We meet Monday and Wednesday, and I’m proud the children experience a positive, fun environment within my sessions. I can see them developing positive, learning values and responses that are valuable daily throughout our lives. 

I also see that the parents are so happy as their children are safe and positively active, only concerned with playing, learning, and creating new bonds of friendship.

For kids, especially girls in our community, worried that football is not for them, I encourage them to try it. It’s a way to create new friendships enjoyably and can help our personal development. I assure them they will feel encouraged by the other players and will not feel self-conscious. In addition, there will always be a motivated and cheerful coach to support them.



Voices From Xico is part of a storytelling curriculum featuring nine community Coaches committed to the power of sport. The Coaches are part of the Natlik organization; their partners include love.fútbolCityzens Giving (Manchester City), Xylem, Disney, Coaches Across Continents.