Community players and expats are anything but uncommon when it comes to World Championships. Across the board national sides are littered with players who qualify through residency or playing history, but Venezuela have a special unique quality about their side. The team is built up entirely of natives, but all of them live in Europe.
Venezuela is a country located in South America and borders Colombia and Brazil. It has a population of over 31 million people. It is currently experiencing high political tensions which have resulted in almost daily protests and today it is extremely difficult for players to not only meet the cost of travelling, but to gain visas. In the past, the nation has been forced to pull out of events such as WUGC in London last year. However, we are delighted to see a Venezuelan Ultimate team at WCBU 2017.
Jullieth Espinoza is a player who has recently moved to the Netherlands from Ireland, where she played for over five years. “The team has come together in a different way as we are all Venezuelans who live around Europe,” she explained. Me and Venessa (Tejero) made the idea of bringing us together as it is very tough to get anyone living in the country to travel due to all the problems at home.”
There is a strong sense of patriotism and community from the Venezuelans, something that is extremely fitting for the sport, as natives from across the continent have travelled to France to fly their flag. “We have Venezuelan players who have emigrated to places like here in France, Holland, Germany and Ireland. We are all over Europe but we come together to play Worlds,” Espinoza went on.
This is not without its obstacles. Despite the accessibility of Europe, travelling to meet up for training is less than ideal for the players. But, their valiance is clear as they make the best of their situations and form their bonds whatever way they can. Espinoza says: “We have trained in small groups as we are so far apart. We worked on everything we could to be able to play well, training with our teams at home, fitness and throwing as well as meeting in groups and playing together. Some of us have played tournaments, we’ve played Rising High and Windmill but this is the first time we have played together.”
With a lack of conventional preparation compared to some of the other nations at the tournament, the squad knew that it would take them some time to find their feet and gel. “The first day was exciting and tough,” she says. “We had to play a lot of points and learn how each other plays but it is a lot of fun to do. We are getting much better with every point and working very hard.”
It is clear that the team are united, and there are signs that it is beginning to show on the pitch. The seasoned throws of Fred Burke and the infectious, spirited intensity of Taomy Hoffmann have not yet been enough to get a win, but the team will be feeling that it is only a matter of time until they start showing what they can really do.
“So far we have played Spain, India and Phillipines. All games have been really spirited, especially our last one against the Philippines! We have been looking forward to playing them so much and look forward to playing Canada soon. All the games have been so exciting ”
But, when it comes down to it, it is clear that results only make up a small part of this team’s goal at WCBU. Venezuela want to promote spirit, perseverance and have fun doing it. Espinoza finishes by saying: “We hope people back home are proud. We have used Facebook to promote the team and show our families and friends back home that we are playing for them and it is a really great feeling. I am so proud to be playing with Venezuela!”
By Aidan Kelly.