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EARLY in 2021, soccer mom Alison was in an Adelaide cafe with the Chilean soccer professional Cote who coaches her 15-year-old daughter, a state team player.

As soon as Cote left, the waitress approached Alison.

“Is that Cote?” she asked breathlessly.

She was wide eyed said Alison. “I’d no idea how much of a superstar Cote is back home.”

Indeed Australia doesn’t know what it has with Maria Jose Rojas, a tiny and quite extraordinary athlete who is blazing a trail not just for women’s sport but is hell bent on passing on her experiences to children desperate to make something of themselves not only in sport but in life.

It is some remit but then Cote has some backstory.

Still a teenager and without a word of English to her name, she was headhunted by the University of Texas (San Antonio) when its team came on a tour and the coaches spotted the star goalscorer at work.

“I didn’t know they were looking for players,” says Cote. “I got the letter for a 100 per cent scholarship. I opened it and I tried to read it but it was in English. I started crying, I always wanted to go.”

A deeply successful four years in America ensued and Cote came away with a business degree and a desire to take her talent further afield still.

She has since played professionally in seven countries and has been a star forward for Adelaide United and also for Salisbury International in the NPL, a sort of warm-up for the W League she says. For the 2021/22 women’s A League season, such is Cote’s pedigree that she has been recruited by Sydney FC, the 2020/21 W League runners-up and who are coached by former Socceroo Ante Juric. Long term however, she remains committed to living and working in Adelaide.’

Forty-three appearances for Chile’s senior team have long established her as her country’s top player, a status sealed forever when she scored the wining goal against Uruguay two years ago that took Chile to the 2021 World Cup in France.

Exemplary stuff but there is another side to Cote. Quite simply, she knows that despite her talents and drive, there has been touch of fortune along her path and she wants to give back.

Up to 30 hours a week are spent coaching at school and clubs and one-to-one. Running and fitness matter but Cote is all about improving ball skills and awareness and motivation.

“She coaches anywhere you can find a park,” says Alison. “She comes out with a bag of balls and cones and sets up nets. Everything is around the ball

“She is just so positive and full of ideas, she really does love children. She relates so well to girls, she believes in women’s soccer.”

And now, Cote will spread her magic even further when she coms on board as a Foundation ambassador and will help coach boys and girls in soccer at our new $3.5 million sports facility at Morton Road.

Keep an eye out for when she’s around. Cote is not one to miss.

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