Meet Bruna Benites: Two-time soccer Olympian for Brazil and RootsTech Connect keynote speaker

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of features on the Latter-day Saint keynote speakers at upcoming RootsTech Connect 2021. Read more on the virtual family history celebration.

Recently, Bruna Benites received a personal message on social media from a young woman — a fellow soccer player and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

As the only Latter-day Saint among her peers, this young woman wrote that she often felt out of place. Discovering that Benites is a Latter-day Saint who played professional soccer, she felt “represented.”

Benites said it is a “big honor” to know there are other young female athletes also striving to live the gospel — and that she can be an example to them. 

Women’s soccer may not get as much attention or visibility as other professional sports, “but there will always be at least one person who is watching you,” Benites said during a recent interview originating in Portuguese. “It’s for this person we have to be an example.”

Benites will be one of 13 keynote speakers at RootsTech Connect Feb. 25-27. Born in Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, Brazil, Benites was baptized a member of the Church with her family at age 15.

Bruna Benites, an Olympic soccer player and Latter-day Saint from Brazil, will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming RootsTech Connect in February 2021.
Bruna Benites, an Olympic soccer player and Latter-day Saint from Brazil, will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming RootsTech Connect in February 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

She represented her country as captain of the Brazil women’s soccer team at the London 2012 Summer Olympics. Two years later, Benites won the CONMEBOL Copa América Femenina, and four years later she competed in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.

Benites, now 35, plays for Sport Club Internacional, a top-tier women’s professional team in Porto Alegre, Brazil. She also holds a degree in physiotherapy from Dom Bosco Catholic University in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul. 

Becoming a professional soccer player was never her dream or intention, she admitted. “I always prioritized education.” She knew being a talented athlete could help pay for an education, and an education could help improve her family’s quality of life. 

“My family has always been my foundation,” Benites said. “In my case, everything I did was for my family, how I felt about them. … I think family is the most important thing we have on Earth.”

Not long after she graduated and stopped playing soccer to work, her mother encouraged her to take an opportunity to play in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. That experience launched her professional career. 

“If it wasn’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be playing,” she said. “Since the beginning, she always supported me.”

Bruna Benites, No. 14, walks with her team at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.
Bruna Benites, No. 14, walks with her team at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. Credit: Courtesy Bruna Benites

Benites said she relies on the Lord for strength on and off the field. 

Among her teammates, she is known for maintaining a sense of peace and calm when others might be nervous or agitated. “I believe this is part of having those principles, this tranquility, serenity, calmness, to know the Lord is in control and we are simply instruments there,” she said. 

With frequent travel and most of the year spent away from home, “my testimony keeps me strong when I am by myself,” she said. “I know that I am not alone. I know that I have Heavenly Father with me. If it wasn’t for Him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” 

Sign up for RootsTech Connect to watch Benites’ keynote address.