Being a dual citizen has placed several roadblocks in front of Christine Nieva’s future; the most significant having to do with soccer or as she calls it in her first language of Spanish, “futbol.”
It was especially tough for Christine Nieva when the Arizona State University women’s soccer team faced the Mexican National Team in October 2006.
“At the time, my ASU and Mexican coaches sat me down together and asked me who I wanted to play with,” Nieva said. “I picked ASU, just to see what it was like to play against Mexico, instead of with them. It wasn’t as tough of a decision as picking Mexico over the U.S.," but being a part of two different sides of something stumped her again.
Born in Dallas on Oct. 18, 1986, Nieva was given dual citizenship to the U.S. and Mexico, because her parents were Mexican citizens.
Growing up in Mesquite, Texas, a predominantly Mexican suburb of Dallas, there was no doubt that she was brought up with Mexican traditions.
“It wasn’t until kindergarten that I began to really speak English,” Nieva said.
Now, Nieva is a 22-year-old college student and former ASU athlete; she currently plays soccer for the University of Houston and has been a world leader in international soccer for the past five-years.
Leading her high school and club teams to State and National titles, Nieva knew she was going to pursue her dream of playing soccer in her future. “In high school, I was a four-year varsity letterman and went Region III Champions in 2002 and 2003,” Nieva said.
When Nieva started playing soccer at 6-years-old, her dream was to play for the U.S. As she got older and began to understand how important her heritage was, she gradually changed her mind.
She’s already played against some of the most famous soccer players in the world—including Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain—but wouldn’t she rather have played with them?
“No,” Nieva said. “I had my chance to, but I followed my heart.”
At 16, Nieva traveled around the States for training camps with the U.S. Junior National Team. By her junior year in high school, the full Mexican National Team had swept her off her feet.
“It was a hard decision, having to choose who I essentially wanted to play with, for the rest of my soccer career: the U.S. or Mexico?” Nieva said. “It was arguably the hardest decision of my life.”
Nieva’s Mexican roots swayed her decision.
“When I was younger, I had the opportunity to play with the U.S. Women’s Youth Team, but I felt that representing where my family is from was something really special to me and still is,” Nieva said. “I’m not only playing for Mexico, I’m serving my country with the talent I have. I’m representing the country I call my own.”
Christine Nieva’s family was supportive through her decision no matter what team she chose. “They didn’t persuade me to play for Mexico,” Nieva said. “I decided that on my own.”
For months, she mulled her decision, considering the pros and cons of being a part of the Mexican National Team. “Everyone I know plays for the U.S.,” Nieva says. “I wanted to have the chance to put on the Mexican jersey. I wanted to represent Mexico.”The Mexican program could give Nieva access to top athletic facilities and a coaching staff that understood her, as well as a stronger sense of national pride.
“It was also that instant connection and acceptance of the players that helped me make a decision,” Nieva said.
Christine knew that with her talent and leadership abilities, she could bring something new to the team and help Mexico earn more respect from the rest of the world.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t qualify for the Beijing Olympics. Mexico hasn’t made it to the Olympics in several years,” Nieva said. “I’m hoping that with more experience I get on this team, I can bring something new and be an asset in winning more games.”
Nieva is one of the youngest members on the roster.
“I feel that I bring a lot of energy [to the team],” Nieva said. “Being young makes me work harder. I know that I have to prove myself to the veterans.”
Nieva learns by example from the more experienced players.
“Monica Vergara is the most inspiring person to play with,” Nieva said, as she explains who she wants her on-the-field game to mimic. “Not only is she a vocal leader, but she leads by example and that is what I love about her the most.”
Nieva still has skills to improve on, but according to SoccerBuzz.com, she is already one of the best women’s soccer players to have played the game.
“I owe my talent, dedication, and hard work to those other teams and coaches I’ve played for in the past,” Nieva said.
Nieva’s talent comes from experience playing, not only at the national level, but also in the college. She came to Arizona State University in 2005 on a full scholarship for soccer, before transferring to the University of Houston two-years later.
“The transfer for me was tough, but it was something that had to be done, so it was an easier transition for me to compete with Mexico during [the] season,” Nieva said.
“There have been times where my national team has interfered with college soccer,” Nieva said. “This past spring was tough. I made the decision to take the whole spring semester off of school completely to train in Mexico for four months to prepare for the Olympic qualifying games.”
“I think it’s a lot harder [playing with Mexico], because when we train, I have to fly down to Mexico,” Nieva said. “It becomes a hassle when I have to miss school and make up all my work.”
Even though it would have been easier to play with the U.S., Nieva thought representing the country she felt the most part of was more important to her than convenience.
“At the end it was about where I wanted to be in my future and my heart was with Mexico,” Nieva said.
To Nieva, soccer is more than just a game, but a way of life and to Christine, Mexico is her life, too.
Britney Milazzo is a Contributor for Bleacher Report.