Linda Caicedo: The Fifa Women’s World Cup teen star who recovered from cancer

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Linda Caicedo, one of Colombia’s breakout stars in women’s football, has demonstrated her dedication to both the sport and to life in general. On the day she signed for Real Madrid, instead of celebrating with family and friends, she took the time to call a young cancer patient back home in Colombia. This exemplifies Caicedo’s priorities. Although she may shine on the field, she recognizes that there is more to life than just soccer.

Caicedo’s journey has been marked by significant milestones and challenges. She made her professional and international debut at the age of 14, but was then diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 15. Despite this setback, she persevered and eventually joined one of the most renowned clubs in the world. In Sydney, she scored a crucial goal against South Korea in their opening match of the Women’s World Cup, helping Colombia secure only their second ever win in the tournament.

At just 18 years and 153 days old, Caicedo became the second-youngest South American player to score a goal in the history of the Women’s World Cup, with only Brazil’s Marta accomplishing this feat at a younger age. She followed up this achievement with a world-class goal against Germany, propelling Colombia to a 2-1 victory over the two-time champions. Caicedo has become the face of the rising women’s football movement in Colombia. Although the country only qualified for their first World Cup in 2011, they have established themselves as a growing force in the sport.

Coming from a disadvantaged background in the town of Candelaria, Caicedo is well aware of the sacrifices she has made to reach this point in her career. She recently visited Candelaria and anonymously donated 100 bags of groceries to those in need, without any media attention. Caicedo has also developed a close relationship with Colombian manager Nelson Abadia, who has been with the national team since 2017. Abadia has played a crucial role in her development, having first taken Caicedo to the national team when she was only 12 years old.

Caicedo’s journey took a temporary pause in 2020 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer during the Covid-19 pandemic. Following surgery to remove a tumor and one of her ovaries, she went through six months of chemotherapy. With the unwavering support of her family and coach Abadia, Caicedo was able to overcome her illness. She returned to training immediately after completing treatment and resumed playing for both Deportivo Cali and the national team. Despite her age, Caicedo has already made 16 appearances for the senior Colombian team, scoring six goals.

In 2022, Caicedo made a strong impression on the world stage during the Copa America Femenina, where she was named player of the tournament. At the age of 17, she helped lead Colombia to the final, where they narrowly lost to Brazil but secured their qualification for the 2023 World Cup. Shortly after turning 18, Caicedo signed with Real Madrid, joining seven other Spanish-based players in Colombia’s World Cup squad. She believes that leaving her country and gaining the support of fans and coaching staff have contributed to her growth as a player.

Despite her achievements, Caicedo remains modest and recognizes that she is still young and has much to learn. She views the World Cup as an opportunity to gain more experience and continue her development. Colombia assistant Angelo Marsiglia describes Caicedo as “extraordinary” and emphasizes her fearlessness on the field. Caicedo’s talent and dedication make her a unique player who has the potential to make a significant impact in women’s football.

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