Sandra Paños

The keeper of the national team

07/08/2022 · By Alfonso S. Lozano
Sandra Paños. Spanish female national team.
Sandra Paños will defend Spain's goal at the next Eurocup in England. © RFEF

The Spanish female football team attends the Women’s Euro in England at a great time and, although Sandra Paños, manager Jorge Vilda’s starting goalkeeper, doesn’t play favourites, she does admit that the team is talented enough to dream big. She also confesses who her idol was when she started playing, and how she feels now that she’s the one signing autographs.

Sandra Paños (Alicante, 1992) knows what it’s like to win absolutely everything at club level. Since 2015, her team FC Barcelona has won three league titles, four Copas de la Reina, two Spanish Super Cups, and one Champions League title. Used to being called up to the senior national team since an early age, this goalie faces a new opportunity to convey that winning spirit to the Spanish team and thus achieve her first international championship at the Women’s Euro, which be held in England from the 6th to the 31st of July. Spain has several of the best players in the world, despite the last-minute absence of the current winner of the Ballon d’Or Féminin, Alexia Putellas, so this tournament comes at a great time, and dreaming is free.

Spain is attending the Women’s Euro with a squad full of talent, are you considered the favourites to win the title?
If we had to wear the label of favourites, we’d do so with great responsibility, but I don’t think we’re there yet. We have a great national team, and we can achieve great things... Dream big! In any case, I don’t believe we deserve that label for now. Hopefully in the future.

What have you improved on regarding this Women’s Euro compared to previous tournaments?
I think in some tournaments we haven’t scored enough goals. Sometimes you score all the goals, and sometimes you don’t [at the last friendly match before the Euro, Spain thrashed Australia 7-0, so the offensive wheels have been greased despite the last-minute injury of Jennifer Hermoso, the team’s all-time top scorer]. The most important thing is to have a strong defence, play like we know how, and have that stroke of luck when it comes to scoring.

“We’re not favourites, but we have a great national team and we can achieve great things... Dream big!”

Which are the strengths of the Spanish national team when it comes to the Euro?
Our strongest asset is the squad and the unique people that are on the team. Also, we have really versatile players, and that makes the rival unsure of how to defend.

Sandra Paños reaches the Women’s Euro after a long, strenuous, and successful season with Barça: 45 victories out of 47 matches, practically undefeated. The only shadow: they lost the Champions League final against Olympique Lyon (1-3). A sad day that doesn’t tarnish a year that has ended with winning a treble: League, Copa, and Super Cup. The goal of this summer is to transfer Barça’s winning genes to the national team, through eight of its players (Aitana Bonmatí, Mariona Caldentey, Patricia Guijarro, Mapi León, Irene Paredes, Andrea Pereira, Claudia Pina, and Sandra Paños herself).

At Barça, you’re used to winning everything; this isn’t the case yet with the national team. Does your mentality change when taking the field?
Our attitude is the same. At any competition, each of us tries to give 200% for the shirt we’re wearing, whether that’s the club or the national team. Hopefully, we can do great things with Spain, because it’s something that adds a lot in sporting terms, and internationally, it would be incredible.

Paños is 29 years old, and she has reached her full sporting potential. Her talent, charisma, and leadership, together with a strong career both at Levante and Barcelona, have turned her into a role model for many young up-and-coming goalies. Not long ago, she used to watch big keepers she tried to imitate. Now, the tables have turned and she’s the one being watched, the one who signs autographs at the end of practice and gives away her gloves to fans at the end of matches for their unconditional support.

When you were little and you started to play football, who did you look up to?
Casillas, the goalkeeper that was on the Spanish team.

You’ve gone from wearing Casillas’ T-shirt to having kids wearing your name. How do you handle that?
Naturally, we’re almost not even aware. We don’t grant it that much importance, although I’m super grateful and happy that there are people who want to be like me. And the fact that they take notice of me is also a great responsibility.

“Hopefully soon we’ll have an even more level playing field. For kids to consider Leo Messi the same as Alexia Putellas”

Women’s football is riding high at the moment, right?
The truth is that it’s been an incredible change, and we’re grateful that it’s happening, that society is evolving, because it was something that was lacking, in my opinion. Being more visible also brings you closer to new generations. Hopefully soon we’ll have an even more level playing field. For kids to consider Leo Messi the same as Alexia Putellas, or Irene Paredes like Gerard Piqué. It’d be a win for all of us.

Talent is something that all the players on Jorge Vilda’s squad share. Paños herself, but also Aitana Bonmatí, Lola Gallardo, Patricia Gallardo, Mapi León, Irene Paredes, Marta Cardona, or Esther González, among others. Talent that could win Spain its first senior women’s title, and which we ask the national team’s keeper about.

Finally, what is talent for you?
Talent is something that must go hand in glove with hard work. Because you might be talented, but without hard work you won’t get very far. Talent and hard work must go together.