BBack in Venezuela, Deyna Castellanos is known as ‘Queen Deyna’, but within minutes of our conversation starting all the nagging fears that Manchester City’s new number 10 could prove valuable or require high maintenance have evaporated.
In Spanish, reina means queen and, as it rhymes with Deyna, it seemed natural for a woman who became captain of her country’s La Vinotinto at just 21.
Summer signing Gareth Taylor from Atlético Madrid is now 23, but Castellanos acknowledges that without winning a college scholarship to study journalism and football in Florida, that national armband might never have been his. “Going to the United States changed my life,” says the refreshing down-to-earth striker who grew up in the town of Maracay near the Caribbean coast, idolizing Brazilian Marta and fighting for the right to play football . “It was an incredible and very important moment for my career.”
This explains why Castellanos created a foundation that, among other things, helps provide soccer scholarships to young South American girls and why she has spoken so passionately about gender equality, education and “change”. mindsets” during her introductory unveiling as a City player. “I want to change the world a bit and fight for equality,” she says.
Castellanos is a versatile striker or attacking midfielder at the heart of rebuilding plans after a summer of dramatic change at City. With Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh decamping to Barcelona, Georgia Stanway joining Bayern Munich, Caroline Weir leaving for Real Madrid and Ellen White retiring, this season’s first XI is much changed.
“The players who left were very big, very important,” says Castellanos, who scored 23 goals in 59 appearances for Atlético. “But everyone here is now very happy and excited to be at City…even though it’s been raining quite a bit in Manchester.”
With England’s Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly still there, continuity isn’t entirely unknown as City battle for their first WSL victory of the season at home to Leicester on Sunday.
It has been suggested that the City manager doesn’t always agree with Bronze, but Castellanos is impressed with the former Wales striker. “He’s really a nice guy,” she said. “He is always trying to teach you and make you better. It’s not something every coach takes the time to do. I think I can grow as a player here.
“English football is faster, more physical and aerial than in Spain, but also technical, a nice mix of styles. Manchester City have always been a passing team and that’s important. It’s very important to control games by dominating with the ball.
The seven-star infrastructure of the Etihad City campus must seem light years away from everyday life in Venezuela. Castellanos’ mission statement is to ensure that every young girl can be “a queen in her own way,” but the legacy of her country’s economic collapse after her failed socialist revolution dictates her survival is commensurate with the ambitions of many citizens.
In 2018, fellow countryman Salomón Rondón, then at Newcastle and now at Everton, spoke passionately of his distress over the country’s economic collapse, painting a grim picture of empty supermarkets, widespread water shortages, a shortages of essential medicines and mass cancellations of hospitals. operations; all against a backdrop of violence, kidnappings and runaway inflation.
Four years later, the emergency has eased slightly, but the capital, Caracas, still has one of the highest murder rates in the world. “I think the situation is a bit better than when Salomón told you,” says Castellanos, whose family remained in Venezuela. “There is more food and better access to medicine, but the country is still in bad shape. I hope that will change.
She is tempted to become a journalist after retiring from football and enjoyed working as a television pundit, mainly for NBC and Telemundo, in Spain and during the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. “I feel really comfortable in front of the camera,” she says. “I do analyses, commentaries or interviews with the same passion as I play football.”
Although she only learned her second language after moving to Florida, Castellanos has practiced “thinking in English as well as Spanish” and is remarkably bilingual on camera. With Venezuela failing to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, she seems certain to be courted by TV companies.
“It’s going to be really spectacular,” she said. “Every team has improved so much, technically and physically. USA have always been the ones to beat, but now England have won the Euros and Spain have a very bright future as well.
Flagship women’s tournaments can contribute to social change and Castellanos clapped inwardly when Team USA publicly demanded the removal of all North American club executives who turned a blind eye to the culture of systemic emotional and sexual abuse in their league. national revealed by the recent Sally Yates. report. “They are brave to speak out loud about important things,” she says. “I feel proud of them.”
Although in a very different context, she harbors similar feelings about her body art collection. “I definitely have a lot of tattoos,” she says. “I don’t know exactly how many, around 37. It’s a mixture of words and images, but I haven’t done any in Manchester yet… there could be rain.”