Cup of opportunity

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Chelsea Cabarcas’ summer won’t be anything like that of a regular Queens high-school student. There won’t be any trips to Jones Beach, no barbecues and not a single pool party.

That’s because on July 1 Cabarcas leaves for “concentrat­ion camp.”

No, it’s not nearly as sinister as it sounds. The College Point native and Bayside HS star midfielder was selected to play for Colombia in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand this fall. In preparation for that, Cabarcas must train with the national team for three weeks straight starting in July in what’s called “concentración.”

“We’re not allowed with iPods or phones,” she said. “We can’t watch TV. Sometimes, if we’re really good we can use the phone for 10 minutes — once a week.”

In other words, Cabarcas, 16, will be playing soccer all day and night. And when she’s not playing it, she’s expected to think about it. Cabarcas will even have a nutritionist there to oversee her eating habits. She was told she needs to put on nine pounds of muscle before October’s World Cup.

“You can’t eat anything,” Cabarcas said. “Like, if you eat chocolate, you get kicked out.”

She’s somewhat apprehensive of about losing her summer here in Queens — after one week off back home, she’ll have to go back in August for another three weeks of “concentración” — and she’s upset about missing school in the fall. The further her team goes, the more she’ll miss.

Worst of all, Cabarcas doesn’t speak fluent Spanish. Her father, Marcos, came to Queens from Colombia when he was 13 and Chelsea was born and raised here. She can understand the language, but not speak it too well. That caused some anxiety when she was there in April for tryouts. It was hard for Cabarcas to communicate and some of the Colombian players resented that she was coming all the way from American to play on their team, she said.

“The girls try to intimidate you,” said Cabarcas, who plays for New York’s Olympic Development Program and the Bayside Flames. “They’re mean to you. Everyone is there to take someone’s spot...Every practice is hardcore. There’s no such thing as going 50 percent and 75 percent.”

Her father asked her a few weeks ago if she was doing this for him or for herself and, despite some of her issues, the answer was clear: this is an amazing opportunity for anyone.

“It’s gonna help me a lot,” Cabarcas said. “Every day, I learn something new.”

She’s been playing soccer since she was 3 years old. Marcos, who played at Newtown HS, has always loved the game and when he was playing in recreational leagues, Chelsea would tag along. Soon, she developed a love for soccer, too. Cabarcas wants to eventually play for the U.S. team and become a women’s soccer icon.

“My goal is to just become the best, get sponsored by Nike, become an idol to other girls,” she said.

She already has tremendous skills with the ball — a staple of South American soccer. But Marcos says she doesn’t show enough emotion. Players from South America are perhaps the most passionate on the pitch.

“She’s too American,” he joked.

That could all change in the coming months.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 6:39 pm, October 10, 2011
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