Randy Hollis: Carla Swensen has unique opportunity to play soccer for Colombia

Published: Monday, Sept. 23 2013 8:40 p.m. MDT

Carla Swensen, right, is not playing high school soccer this season. She is focusing on making the Colombian national team next month.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Carla Swensen's story starts out much like that of most teenage girls who have grown up playing soccer since they were little kids.

They're probably hoping that someday they'll get a chance to play high school soccer, and perhaps play at the collegiate level, too. Maybe they even dream big, hoping they might have an opportunity to play on the national team with a chance to go up against international competition someday.

Well, that's where Swensen's story takes a unique, interesting turn, one that most teenage girls would never experience.

And the way the Bingham High School senior sees it, it's the opportunity of a lifetime and a dream come true.

Her mother, Josefina, is a native of Colombia, so 18-year-old Carla has dual citizenship, which makes her eligible to represent that South American country in international soccer competition. That rarity has presented her with a unique and tremendous opportunity — she is one of 36 players who has been invited to participate in the U-20 Colombia National Camp in October at Cali, Colombia.

From that camp, 22 players will be selected to the team's final roster which will play in the U-20 South American Championships early next year at Uruguay. The top two teams from the South American tournament will qualify for the U-20 World Cup scheduled next summer in Canada.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me," Swensen said. "I've dreamed of this ever since I was a little girl, and it's somewhat surreal to have this opportunity presented to me now.

"Ever since I started playing competitive soccer, I'd go to practice every day and work hard and run and sweat and hope that someday I'd get a chance to play on the international level. So when that opportunity does present itself, you've got to go for it."

She admits though, that it was difficult for her not to be able to play on her Bingham High School team this season. And, since the Colombian trip will require her to be gone for several weeks, she essentially took a leave of absence from her normal class schedule and enrolled in several online courses to keep up on her schoolwork.

After all, soccer isn't the only thing in this young lady's life.

Carla carries a GPA of 4.00 at Bingham High, where she is a two-time 5A state debate champion. And she has verbally committed to play collegiate soccer at BYU in 2014, so she needs to make sure her academic standing doesn't suffer and she stays on track toward graduation in order to keep her NCAA compliant after high school.

"I would like to have played high school soccer this year because I absolutely love it," said Swensen, who starred for the Miners in the past and played in the preseason for them this fall. "It made me sad that I couldn't play this year, so I had to make that sacrifice.

"The thing with playing high school soccer is you know all the girls so well, and that makes it special. You've grown up with them and you go to school with them and you live in their neighorhood. You go to lunch with them and you sit in math class with them every day. That's what makes high school sports different is that you're playing with people you grew up with, your next-door neighbors, the kids you spent your childhood with.

"And it's neat to represent your high school and your community," she said. "There's a certain relationship you develop with the community, the fans and the girls on your high school team. There's something memorable and magical about being able to represent your school. You have your friends who would never go to a soccer game, but they come to the games and support you. And you get to wear your jersey to school on game days and get to know all the girls and the coaches so well. I definitely miss that.