Fatima Barham, a senior captain on the Matanzas Lady Pirates soccer team, plays every game as if it were her last.
That might be because she remembers what it was like to sit out due to a hip surgery in 2019. And right knee surgery in February 2020. And left knee surgery in November 2020.
Or she might play hard because that’s who she is.
“Going in full force is the only way to win,” Barham said. “Being scared to get injuries isn’t worth it.”
“Going in full force is the only way to win."
In an interview after an emotional 8-0 loss to Flagler Palm Coast High School on Dec. 9, she revealed that this was her seventh loss to the Lady Bulldogs in a row. She has never beaten them.
“It’s very frustrating,” she said. “It’s tough coming out here and playing against girls who left our high school, but there’s nothing you can do other than fight the whole way through it.”
Despite having to wear a brace and getting an injury scare late in the game, Barham showed off her poise, making a precise pass to a teammate, splitting two Lady Bulldog defenders who were charging at her from opposite directions.
“If you trust your timing, you can play the ball anywhere,” she said. “Panicking is what you gets you to lose the ball.”
She also trusts her teammates. There are 11 seniors on the team, and she has played with most of them all four years of high school. Barham has been a defender since was 4 years old; since she was 6, she has played with the same goalkeeper: Emma Diaz.
“We have a connection,” Barham said of Diaz. “It’s like we have a sixth sense. If we are going for the same ball, but I know she wants it, I back off. It’s a gut feeling. It’s a switch-and-go.”
At halftime, she rallies the team. She leads the cheers in the huddle. She’s not afraid to tell a teammate to work harder.
“I have 11 seniors. They know I support them. I’m here for them more than I’m here for the soccer.”
SCOTT CROOKE, Matanzas coach
“She’s a good leader,” said Scott Crooke, who is in his first full season as the team’s head coach. “She’s a vocal leader. The team looks up to her; she’s made it over these hurdles.”
Crooke wasn’t happy about the 8-0 loss Dec. 9. But, he tries not to worry about wins and losses.
“I have 11 seniors,” he said. “They know I support them. I’m here for them more than I’m here for the soccer.”
As much as she hates to lose, Barham is also in it for her teammates first.
“Soccer is like home,” she said. “It’s the place I feel safe. I’m never going to get this back. This season, I want the connection with the girls to be good. Playing with these girls for four years — they are my family. We have ups and downs throughout our lives of soccer, but this is my team. I wouldn’t want any other team.”