Meet Mariafe – when she’s not carving it up on the beach volleyball circuit, she’s at Coopers cheering her Reds on!
What’s made you fall in love with Adelaide United?
I love the atmosphere of the games. Every time I’m at Coopers, all the fans get really involved with what’s happening on the pitch and I’m very passionate myself so I get into it a lot too. It’s a lot of fun for me, especially as I was born in South America where football fans are always so passionate, so I love being able to express myself so openly with people that are as loving of the sport as I am.
What will you bring to the AUFC family as an ambassador of the club?
Like I said, I’m very passionate about football, but also sport in general and I think that’s definitely something I’ll bring to the family. I’m very competitive and I love the competitiveness that comes with sport, so I’ll be cheering loudly and proudly from the stands as often as possible to add to the incredible energy in Coopers!
What do you remember from your first game at Coopers Stadium?
My first game at Coopers Stadium was a few years ago now and I came with some of the beach volleyball girls that I play with. It was the first time I came to a football match in Australia and so I wasn’t sure how Australian’s would get into it, but I knew straight away that it was something I wanted to be part of as often as possible.
What’s drawn you to support the Reds?
When I moved to Australia in 2005 I went to watch some AFL games because of how big it is in this country and then, because I was living in Sydney where AFL isn’t necessarily the biggest sport, I went to a few basketball games too. But then I moved to South Australia and I think because football is pretty much in my blood I just connected straight away with Adelaide United. I also used to see the players at SASI (South Australian Sports Institute) when the team trained there too. All of the staff and players are incredibly friendly, as well, and it has made me want to be part of your family more and more because in sport it’s hard to find genuine togetherness.
And considering you’re not from South Australia and primarily lived in New South Wales, did you support any other Hyundai A-League clubs?
Never! United was the first team I went to watch and so I’m a pure Reds fan.
Being from South America and born in Peru, what’s your relationship with football and have you always loved it?
As I’m sure everyone knows, football is the biggest sport in South America, besides volleyball for the women. I even played football when I was growing up at school too. But everyone in my family loves football and my dad used to play and my grandfather, Oscar Artacho, was a very famous commentator in Peru. I’ve grown up with football and I supported Real Madrid in Europe, mainly because David Beckham played for them.
Did you support any other football teams growing up?
In Peru’s Primera División I support Sporting Cristal because I actually played volleyball for that club.
Moving away from football a little bit, tell us about your day-to-day life as a beach volleyball star.
Well my day-to-day activities vary a lot, but in a normal day and around this time of year when the weather is much warmer and we’re coming into competition, we start with sand training in the morning and then have a gym session in the afternoon. But it can vary and sometimes it can be the exact opposite. Our types of sessions can change though and we might have a speed and agility session, or Pilates, or have a sport psychology session, or have general meetings for preparation, and video sessions… there are a lot of things that we do away from the sand!
When did you start playing volleyball? How much of a go did you give football?
I started playing beach volleyball when I was 12, which is when I first came to Australia, but I was playing indoor volleyball at the age of six in Peru. Football is a different story because I love all sports and I’ve always been very active, but I was more natural at volleyball and followed my sister in taking it up more seriously than anything else.
You were the 2014 U-23 Beach Volleyball World Champion and you won Gold at the 2015 Australian Beach Volleyball Championships as well as Gold at the 2015 Continental Cup, just to name a few achievements, so are the Olympic Games in Rio the next thing you’re looking to conquer?
Definitely. Since London, it’s all I’ve been thinking about and it’s everything I’ve been working towards. You have to visualise yourself playing at the Games and at the opening ceremony and so it’s definitely not something I’ve gone a day without thinking about. With something like the Olympic Games, there’s a mental balance between being prepared for it psychologically and then physically. I know no one is going to give me the qualification into the Games and so it’s about preparing myself for the tough journey, but I have enough confidence within myself to know I can do it.
With all the training, preparing, and competing, when will you have time to watch the Reds play?
I try to come to as many games as possible as it is, so it’ll be very hard to be away for some of the games. But while we’re not training or competing I’ll be keeping up-to-date with all the games and scores as much as I can and be at Coopers in spirit. As it stands now, ever since I got my Adelaide United jersey, the team hasn’t lost so I must be a lucky charm for the guys!
Just to finish off, here are some quick-fire questions that you have to give us very quick answers to… Ready?
Football or volleyball?
Beach volleyball of course!
World Cup or Olympics?
Grass or sand?
Salad or burger?
Has to be a burger.
Messi or Ronaldo?
Oh, that’s a tough one… I think, Ronaldo.
Is there anything else you wanted to say to the Adelaide United family before we go?
I just want to say thank you to everyone for having me in this awesome family. Growing up with football and there being such a great cultural vibe associated with the Reds has made me really excited to be part of the Club. I feel at home when I’m at Coopers with the other fans and I can’t wait to come back and support our team! Come on you Reds!
Thank you, Mariafe, and welcome to the family!