Soccer player for Netherland's PSV Vrouwen. Previously played for the Portland Thorns, UCLA, and the United States.
Tell us about yourself and your athletic career.
My name is Anika Rodriguez, I'm a Mexican American pro footballer. I've been playing soccer for as long as I can remember, it has taken me to some really cool places. I was able to represent the United States throughout my high school years and into college. I played at UCLA for 5 years and it was the best experience for me as a soccer player but also as a person. Right before getting to college I tore my ACL for the first time and tore it again four years later. After rehabbing my ACL and playing in my fifth year at UCLA I decided to continue furthering my soccer career as a professional. I played in the NWSL Challenge Cup with the Portland Thorns, it was an incredible experience and I learned so much from the coaching staff and the players. Right after the tournament ended I moved to the Netherlands to play for PSV, I am currently living here and playing soccer. There is so much I want to do with soccer and with the platform that I have, definitely very grateful for what this sport has brought me.
What are your hopes for the future?
My hopes for the future, to play for however long my body will let me. I want to be able to use soccer to bring light to so many different issues across a variety of different areas. Environmental, Gender Equality, Mental Health, and Latinx are all areas that I'm so so passionate about. I have been using this season of life to grow and learn more about these topics. I want to be able to live my life in a way that I can bring people on this journey with me. I want to show people you can be a plant-based high performing athlete, that mental health isn't something that can hold you back, and that women can do everything men can do and should be treated equally. I'm not exactly sure yet what my plans are for the future but I definitely know which direction I'm headed in.
As a pro athlete, do you feel gender inequality? Have you experienced it?
As an athlete in general I have felt gender inequality, and have experienced it. I am so lucky that the sport I fell in love with has opportunities for women to play professionally, not all sports do. Within my sport, there have been so many different times where the men's and women's teams within the same club have been treated differently. Whether it's the difference in equipment or the access to the "better" stuff it's been something that has been a constant. There are most definitely clubs that do a better job of making sure that the differences between the two as far as facilities and access are minimal. The biggest factor when talking about inequality is the pay, it's been something that more recently has been evident in my life. The pay gap between men and women is glaring, the women's teams may have won more trophies, have a better record, and win more games yet they still get paid a fraction of what the men's team does. Change takes time and women's soccer is growing, I'm a bit of an optimist and would like to believe that the world can see that our game deserves the same pay.
What does the phrase "Equalize The Future" mean to you?
The phrase "Equalize The Future" reminds me of something I wrote for one of my art projects back in high school. I want to give the little girls who have fallen in love or will fall in love with this sport the opportunities that I didn't get. To be able to not have to worry financially, that soccer will be a steady income, and that they can love their job. Equalizing the Future is so much more than just the stuff that happens on the field, it's about the recognition and respect for our craft. Our accomplishments should be looked at and celebrated just as much as the men. We aren't asking for more than them we are asking for it to be equal.