Laylla da Cruz kisses the logo of her shirt

She dominates any midfield

Meet Laylla da Cruz, the FCA collaborator who is a former Brazilian Women's Soccer Team player with lots of inspiring stories to tell

July 15, 2019 - Laylla da Cruz’s childhood already foreshadowed the skill that would guarantee her a place in the Brazilian National Soccer Team: "I would tear off my dolls’ heads to play soccer with them", she laughs. Long before sharing the field with the ace Marta - now the leading scorer in the history of the World Cup, after leaving the German Klose with a goal against Italy on the 19th-, Laylla had the support of her family to discover her vocation. "My father played in the Cruzeiro team, but did not become professional. His dream was interrupted, so it ended up happening in me", she says.

As a child, Laylla was ubiquitous in the matches played by her father and considers that his approach to the sport was something very natural. "He never had a macho attitude of thinking that soccer was not for girls", she says. Prejudice is still very common in our society, but not in the former athlete’s home in Ouro Branco (a town in the interior of Minas Gerais) where she was born.

When she was eight Laylla enrolled in soccer practices. At the age of 14 she played both volleyball and soccer in her school, until the big finals of both sports were scheduled for the same day. "My coaches' solution was to have a drawing to decide, but before that could happen, I had already made up my mind" she recalls. About two years later, she had the opportunity to play for the Atletico, and that's where she needed to adapt: ​​from indoor soccer to a grass field.

Laylla da Cruz in her first match for the national teamLaylla in her first match for the national team.

In 2007, she had the opportunity to be tested for the Santos Futebol Clube team in São Paulo. It was the Santos team that opened the doors for Laylla to be part of the Brazilian National Team: with the number 5 on her jersey, she was a midfielder for the U-20 team. At the end of 2009, she received a long awaited proposal: to go to college in the United States. Thus she began studying English full-time. Before leaving for the University of Texas in San Antonio in August of 2010, she even played for the São José dos Campos (SP). Laylla's mother made a deal with her: she could play soccer, but she should never stop studying. "While overseas, I played for the university team and had a full scholarship. To make a little extra money, I started working on two projects: selling baseball and football game tickets and working in the new students’ admissions office."

Balancing all the activities, plus the trainings from Monday through Saturday and games on Fridays and Sundays, required a lot of discipline, but she was on the right track. It was there in the United States that she had the opportunity to play for the Brazilian national team for the first time in 2013 against the Orlando team. The second match was in 2014 against France in Lyon. "I went back to Brazil straight to Granja Comary, the training center for the national team", she says. But by 2015, an ankle injury caused Laylla to be out of the 2016 Olympic bid.

Laylla da Cruz in Swedenfootball in Sweden sometimes looks like hockey!

While playing in the Swedish team Östersund DFF, she scored a goal from behind the midfield. The news went viral, making Brazilians proud. She was sure she could get back into the National team, but a new injury to that same ankle prevented her once again. "It's frustrating, because it depends a lot on your physical disposition and, no matter how hard the dedication, there are things that are beyond our control", she says.

At that moment, she had to make a difficult decision: to end her career as a professional athlete and invest in a career in her major, Administration and International Business Management. Since 2017, Laylla applies what she has learned on the field in her daily life in the Supply Chain area of ​​FCA at the Fiat Automotive Plant (Betim, Brazil). "I take into my daily life the understanding that people are different, with different skills, and need to play in the position where they deliver the best outcome". It demonstrates that coping with pressure is something I gained as an athlete. After all, "you need to listen to a stadium yelling at you, booing, and still keep in mind that if you miss it, in the next one you’ll succeed, until it actually happens". Her very direct way of communicating on the field is being honed at FCA. "When you're playing, you need to say 'pass the ball!' instead of 'could you pass me the ball next time, please?', because it's all very quick. In a company you can’t do the same", she laughs. She says she also does well as a midfielder and understands the new team she works with.

Laylla da Cruz with FIAT Car

But what about soccer? Did she drop it altogether? Not at all. Laylla has been playing in her spare time, especially with her father and uncles. At the end of the year, the whole family gets together for a big game. While watching women soccer players in the World Cup, Laylla was filled with pride. "They worked hard to get to where they are now, and it's not easy", she says.

What does Laylla want for women's soccer? "She wants more visibility. The Cup was on broadcast TV for the first time, but I cheer for it not stop there", she defends. She explains that Marta, Cristiane and Formiga, the great names in the team, will no longer be playing, and it is necessary to train another generation of players with quality, which only happens with support and opportunities. Fiat is a sponsor of the Brazilian National Soccer Team (base, Olympic and major, men's and women's teams) until 2022.

Words: Bárbara Caldeira

Pictures: Marketing FCA / personal records

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