CARY, N.C. — Deyna Castellanos has been dealing with the notoriety that comes with being a soccer star since she was about 14 years old.
It’s become part her life. The Venezuelan superstar, now 19 years old, has already been a finalist for The Best FIFA Women’s Player. She has nearly 190,000 Twitter followers and more than 1.2 million followers on Instagram – and she frequently interacts with her social media followers.
Plus, legions of fans from Venezuela have made the trip just to watch Castellanos play in the United States.
“In the beginning, it was very, very exciting,” Castellanos told Pro Soccer USA.
She added she wants to “make sure when people see me, it’s like, the real Deyna.”
Florida State’s match against Miami on Oct. 25 was a prime example of Castellanos’ fame. An announced crowd of 1,850 came to see the match, and a massive group was there specifically to see Castellanos. The Seminoles lost the match 1-0 in overtime, but fans with Venezuelan jerseys and flags stayed after to meet Castellanos.
A Florida State official said he had to limit the time the fans were trying to spend with Castellanos in Miami – the Seminoles needed to get back on the bus back to Tallahassee.
Castellanos said fans – young boys and young girls – have come up to her and said she’s their idol.
Friday, for the first time, Castellanos will play in the Women’s College Cup, the semifinals of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament. The Seminoles play defending national champion Stanford at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
Castellanos is the Seminoles top goal scorer for the second season in a row with 10 goals in 24 starts.
That’s actually a down year for Castellanos. She had seven goals in 13 games as a freshman and an ACC-leading 19 goals in 20 starts as a sophomore. Head coach Mark Krikorian said his star forward got off to a slow start to the year after spending time in Russia for the World Cup.
She’s still been able to deliver when needed. Her golazo in the 52nd minute of Florida State’s quarterfinal match against Penn State punched FSU’s ticket to Cary.
“She had a great opportunity to go and be a FIFA delegate through the summer and be involved in the men’s World Cup in Russia and it was a great opportunity for her, but it didn’t help her in terms of being fully prepared for the start of the season. Credit to her and credit to her teammates working through helping her to get back to the level that we all know she can play at.
Krikorian said Castellanos is playing her best soccer now and that she’s embraced the idea of being a more complete player.
“We all know when the ball is around the goal and the ball is on her foot, it could be spectacular, what occurs,” Krikorian said. “But that’s not always what wins games. Sometimes it’s making that extra recovery run in defense to stop an attack or going in hard and winning a tackle that otherwise a player of that caliber and that style might not choose to do.
“I think Deyna’s game has evolved in many different ways and that she’s a much better player now that she was a couple of years ago, even though her goal-scoring record last year was better than this year. I think her contribution to the team and her ability to help make her teammates better has become more evident in the last month or so.”
There’s a real desire from supporters to see Castellanos in a professional kit. So much so that she had to put out a statement on Twitter prior to the start of her junior year at FSU saying she was coming back to school.
“I love playing college soccer,” Castellanos said. “I think it’s amazing. It was one of my best decisions in my life, coming here to the United States and play. I love it here. I’m taking everything step by step. I’m going to leave after I get my degree.”
Castellanos said she’s thought about where she’ll start her professional career.
“I was thinking [I would] stay here in the United States for a couple of seasons, but right now I’m not very sure,” she said, adding she could possibly jump to Spain.
With a smile, she said, “I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Before a professional career comes into play, Castellanos wants to help the Seminoles to their second-ever national title. She said winning a national title to her would be as important as winning a World Cup.
Venezula’s women’s national team finished third in its group at the 2018 Copa América Femenina. Castellanos led the team with five goals, but Venezuela missed out on qualifying for the 2019 World Cup in France.
“For me, this team is like my family,” she said. “It’s like a huge part of my life.
“This group of players and coaches and the people, the university that’s always supporting us, it’s like… they deserve this. It’s super-important.”
Castellanos said she’s become closer with her teammates in her third season with the Seminoles. Her English has dramatically improved from when she first arrived in Tallahassee before the start of the 2013 season and she’s taken steps to spend more time with other players on the team.
Before, she spent a lot of time with Costa Rican sophomore and fellow Spanish speaker Gloriana Villalobos.
“All of them, it’s such a nice team,” Castellanos said. “I love spending time with all of them.”