Mónica González is incredible for a number of reasons. To start, the former Mexican-American international was a founding member of the Mexican women’s national team in 1998, captained the squad from 2003 to 2007, and earned 83 caps. Most recently, she was a part of the all-star commentary crew that guided our viewing during the Women’s World Cup in Canada.
She’s a pioneer of the women’s game, and she’s used her amazing personal accomplishments and dual citizenship for the benefit of communities in the U.S., Mexico, and even Colombia with her non-profit soccer and leadership academy for girls, Gonzo Soccer.
Gonzo Soccer uses soccer as a vehicle to enlighten girls, helping them discover their potential and inspiring and empowering them to reach it. It began in 2009, when González and co-founder Alyse LaHue held a girls’ soccer clinic in a Latino neighborhood of Chicago. They have since expanded their reach, serving communities in Mexico and Colombia, the latter of which currently serves the greatest number of girls, thanks in large part to funding from the U.S. State Department. These communities often suffer from dangerous cycles of abandonment and neglect, leading girls to drug use, homelessness, and early pregnancy (according to the World Health Organization, about 16 million women between ages 15 and 19 give birth each year, and 95 percent of these births occur in developing countries).
Through a combination of soccer, life skills workshops, and academic support, Gonzo Soccer provides girls with new opportunities and a way of escaping dangerous situations. They become a part of a family of people who genuinely care about their development, and in turn grow to be exemplary models within their respective communities.
In an interview with ESPNW, González described how challenging and truly exhausting this type of work can be. “My biggest lesson is how much energy it takes. I’ve trained every day for the Olympics and World Cup and I’ve never had an exhausted breakdown like I’ve had with this.”
But no matter how tough it gets, giving these girls an opportunity to live out their dreams on and off the soccer pitch makes it all worth it.