Colombian Pride: Liana Salazar Relishing World Cup Spotlight on Home Country

By Casey Craig, KU Communications Student Assistant

LAWRENCE, Kan. – As the eyes of the world fall on Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, for Kansas Jayhawk Liana Salazar and her home country of Colombia, there is a feeling of immense pride as the Men’s National team qualified for the first time since the 1998 World Cup in France.
While the World Cup has garnered many headlines in the United States, the attention is nothing like the event receives in Colombia, especially with the recent resurgence of the men’s and women’s national teams.
“Much like Lawrence and how the state of Kansas can be described as basketball country, [Colombia] is a soccer one,” Liana said. “The environment is crazy; there are people in the streets, and people want the team to win.”
With an influx of young talented players the Colombian men’s national football team qualified for the World Cup in 1990, 1994 and 1998. The team then failed to qualify for the next three World Cups. For Salazar and most in her generation this is the first time they have seen a successful men’s side. Salazar herself states that she was too young to remember the World Cups of ’94 and ’98.
Salazar plans to be front and center to watch all of her country’s World Cup games over the next few weeks. She also believes that the team has a strong chance of making it out of group play and into the knockout rounds. Colombia defeated Greece 3-0 in their first match on June, 14 and sits atop Group C.
Yet, while the men struggled for many years, their female counterparts began to flourish. The same year the men failed to qualify for the 2010 South Africa World Cup, the women’s national team placed second in the South American Women’s tournament and qualified for the 2011 World Cup in Germany. The team also played in the 2012 London Olympics.
Salazar played in two of the three World Cup games (North Korea and USA), and while the team did not make it past the group stage, she felt immense pride in being able to represent her country.
“It is one of your dreams, to be apart of the national team,” Salazar said with a smile on her face. “I was so happy. You can’t believe you are playing for your national team, that you are in front of 34,000 people [in the stadium], but at the same time you have big challenges.”
One of these challenges is the team’s intense training camp. During the camps, Salazar’s daily routine consisted of “sleep, practice, nap, practice again, repeat.” Focus was crucial: had she been ill-prepared, her stay at camp would have been short lived. The  soon-to-be Jayhawk junior also credits her KU coaches for preparing her well mentally and physically,  which keeps her ready should she again be called up to the national team.
The Colombian women’s national team is No. 29 in the most recent FIFA rankings, so expectations continue to rise.  
“We are getting better,” concluded Salazar.  “We have so much to work on and so much to do, but I think people are starting to take notice of women’s soccer.”
The most powerful and memorable moments for Salazar during her own World Cup experience were taking in the Colombia National Anthem before the games.
“I think it is the best feeling in the world to hear your national anthem. I don’t know how to explain it. You just feel so happy and so full of pride,” Salazar said.
The Jayhawk Midfielder will be watching intently at the Colombian men’s national team takes on the Ivory Coast this Thursday, June 19, before finishing up group play against Japan next Tuesday, June 24th.
As World Cup play continues in Brazil, Salazar and her Jayhawk teammates are preparing for their own upcoming competition. Kansas opens its 2014 regular season on Aug. 22 at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.