A transformation happens on the field surrounding the Village at Pierce College. What is largely unused during the day, becomes filled with children playing soccer in the afternoon, hoping to be the next Abby Wambach or Lionel Messi. It is on this field that a young Leslie Ramirez started her soccer journey.
Ramirez, 21, began playing the sport at the age of 8 for the Giants, a youth team that played on the field at Pierce.
“My first girl’s team was here at Pierce,” Ramirez said. “We were called the Giants and in my first game, I just killed it.”
Introduced to soccer by her father, who also played the sport, Ramirez returns to the very place it all started after attending and playing for Cal. State Northridge.
“I feel like I have a lot to prove,” Ramirez said. “Especially being new, transferring from CSUN, it makes me work harder to prove myself.”
Ramirez comes from a long line of soccer players. She has two sisters, Betty and Alex, that also played for the team at Pierce which was coached by Adolfo Perez.
“Ever since I was little I would always watch them play and they would always make me want to be better,” Ramirez said. “I was the baby of the family so I felt like I had to hold that standard. Carrying that last name and having Adolfo coaching all three of us, I wanted to be better and work that much harder for my family, for Adolfo and for the team.”
The determination and passion that drives Ramirez translates to her play on the pitch as well as her standing with her teammates.
“Her expectations are so high,” Perez said. “In soccer, the hardest thing to do is score goals, which she does best. She scores with finesse and a hard shot. She’s a born leader.”
“When she first started to play, all I can remember is watching her do cartwheels,” said Betty Ramirez, Leslie’s sister who played soccer for Pierce in 2008 to 2010. “But at age 7, I just saw this amazing turnaround. She was great with the ball, she was always scoring and had a smile on her face.”
Although Ramirez experienced success through her years playing, it wasn’t always fun and games for her.
“I started off playing with a boys team when I was a kid. I was the only girl on the team and they absolutely would not pass me the ball,” Ramirez said. “They refused to. They just thought girls can’t play soccer and when I noticed they didn’t pass me the ball, it made me so mad. I’m part of the team. Pass me the ball. Let me play with you guys.”
Discrimination in women’s soccer is nothing new. Disparity in wages between professional men’s and women’s soccer has been documented and the top 5 women’s soccer players have filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, the national governing body for the sport, for wage discrimination, according to a New York Times article earlier this year.
Though there may be discrimination between men’s and women’s soccer, stars like Mia Hamm, Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach help popularize the sport to young women who wish to emulate them and follow in their footsteps.
“Abby Wambach is just so big and so dangerous and aggressive,” Ramirez said. “Just the fact that we’re both big, she’s an aggressive player and works hard. I could really relate to her.”
Though the season for Pierce’s women’s soccer team is still early, the team currently has an undefeated record of 3-0 and expectations for Ramirez to succeed this season are high.
“I’ve seen her grow to an amazing player,” Betty said. “She’s just so passionate with the ball and she could do so much more that neither myself nor Alex can do.”
Leslie Ramirez keeps the family legacy alive here at Pierce, but soccer is more than just a passion. It’s what she knows. It’s life for her.
“It’s a big responsibility and I love soccer. It’s all that I do,” Ramirez said. “I even have a tattoo on my back that says ‘I learned all about life with the ball at my feet.’”