There are many reasons that people cherish following and watching women’s football. Much of them are for the same reasons we love football in general; fantastic skills, beautiful goals, and larger-than-life personalities.
But there is also something else — a close-knit sense of community that allows fans and players to interact in ways you rarely see in the men’s game. Women footballers regularly peruse their social media, are hyper-aware of the discourse around them, and may even like your tweet or reply to you if they feel like it.
For Marina Benito, a 21-year-old university student studying software engineering, this cyberspace environment is where her journey to meet her favorite player began.
In an October 6, 2020 tweet, Marina likened Real Madrid Femenino winger Marta Cardona to the “Flash” for the first time, referencing the iconic DC comic superhero.
As Marina noted in an interview with Managing Madrid, the reason for the moniker was obvious. Towards the end of the video you can see Cardona blazing down the right-hand side of the pitch like she was harnessing the ‘Speed Force,’ or energy field, that makes Flash so quick.
Afterwards, Marina edited a picture of Cardona’s face into the Flash mask, giving birth to the “Flash Cardona” nickname, which Real Madrid Femenino fans on twitter found funny and adopted.
But it wasn’t just her speed that caught Marina’s eye and those of many admirers (including myself). Marta Cardona isn’t just fast — she’s extremely skilled, too.
Her dribbling ability, chance creation, and threat as a goalscorer were all on show early on in the season, finally cementing Cardona as her footballing idol after Marina had watched the talented trickster play for a few years:
I liked her back when she played for Real Sociedad but she really stood out to me when [she played] in the SheBelieves Cup. Her incredible — and I’d say better than expected — start with Real Madrid this season caused her to move up in my favorite player rankings.
Despite the general public not being allowed to watch the team in-person at Valdebebas, Marina was determined to see Flash Cardona in the flesh, attending her first live Real Madrid Femenino game when Atlético Madrid hosted El Derbi Madrileño.
That was the first Real Madrid Femenino match I was able to attend in person and it was really special. It was a very important match [in regard] to the fight for the UEFA Women’s Champions League spots, but the way we won made it even better. Winning our first derby with ten players for most of the game and being able to celebrate on the pitch with the players [made me feel] like I was part of something special.
Since then, Marina has made it her mission to attend as many games in Madrid as she can, showing up for Las Blancas’ away win against Madrid CFF before making it to the match vs. Rayo Vallecano last Saturday.
At full-time, you can hear someone desperately screaming Cardona’s name for close to a minute.
Marina swears it wasn’t her:
No that wasn’t me. There were some other fans from the Peña ‘Pioneras Blancas’ that had a megaphone. They knew me from Twitter and knew I had the gift. They were the ones that did all the screaming.
“The gift” refers to a T-shirt that Marina made — one that she planned to give Cardona at Vallecas.
un fav y al proximo partido le regalo esta camiseta a marta pic.twitter.com/JIzhCf9EHk— marina (@flashcardona) May 3, 2021
A friend of mine went to Valdebebas last week for the match against Sporting Huelva and she met Marta outside after the match. She told me that Marta asked her about “the one that calls her Flash” because some players teased her about it, so I wanted her to know that it was me. That was last Tuesday. I had four days to get the T-shirt printed. It was a bit rushed but I made it on time.
When the players exited the gates after the game, Marina finally got to meet her hero:
sois muy Gracias por venir a animarnos siempre donde sea! Te tengo ya calada @flashcardona— Marta Cardona de Miguel (@Mcardona10) May 8, 2021
Marta told me that she and Misa looked at my twitter account before because they wanted to know who I was. It was really weird (and also really nice, no complaints about it) that Tere and Maite laughed as soon as they saw the shirt because they knew what it was about. It feels a bit surreal that a joke I made on twitter that I thought wouldn’t last more than a couple of days made it to the dressing room.
maite y tere descojonadas mi parte favorita pic.twitter.com/iTRtFmbBal— marina (@flashcardona) May 8, 2021
The joke didn’t just make it to the dressing room but Cardona’s instagram as well, where her teammates all but made “Flash Cardona” an official nickname.
But it’s that face-to-face interaction with Spain’s Flash that Marina will no doubt hold most dear. This is one of the reasons Marina and others love women’s football, even if there’s a bittersweet realization that it may not last.
I feel lucky to be able to experience the growth of futfem in Spain from an early stage because it allows you to do this kind of thing, which is very special for the fans. It is unavoidable that, with the growth we all want futfem to experience in the near future, things like this will become harder, but I hope when that happens the players don’t lose their down-to-earth character and become ‘unreachable’ like has happened in the men’s game.
Until whenever that occurs, Marina can surely sneak in some more quality time with her new best friend, right?
I mean... if she ever wants to hang out she knows where to find me.