Keila Molina is from Venezuela and has been involved with the Coaches Across Continent project in Brazil learning the skills needed to be a coach and a leader in her community.
CAC sat down with Keila to ask about her experience on the programme and why being a leader is so important to her.
How did you get involved in football?
It’s really a lucky story. When I was young I only played volleyball. My older sister was very athletic and I looked up to her very much. Naturally, I just wanted to do whatever she was doing, so I played volleyball. In Venezuela, women’s football is not very popular or glamorous or commercial. I could play but it was kind of shamed. My father was a football player, so I played at home with him but that was it. But at one point I broke my hand so I couldn’t play volleyball for a long time. While I was injured, I would go running to stay fit, and I would run by a football field. One day there was a team of girls playing football on the field and the coach came up to me after my run and asked me if I wanted to play for the team. After about six weeks I was on the team and loved it. I had grown up hearing that football was only for boys, but all the sudden I was playing for my state team, my pre-national team, university team and from 2008-2015 I played professionally for Carabobo FC.
As a Venezuelan woman living in Brazil, how does the experience that girls and women in Brazil have differ from their experience in Venezuela?
In Brazil it seems to me like it is all about creating fame for the boys as professionals. I think in Venezuela there are less resources but more support currently for everyone to play. Brazil has spaces to play in many places but I almost never see any girls or women out playing.
In Venezuela, fields and courts are private and it costs a lot to buy time to play. It takes a big effort to get field time, and in the cities sometimes it isn’t safe to be out playing.
[In Rio] it feels like female players are completely ignored and I don’t see any intention to plan for a structure to help girls play. And also, girls don’t ask to play or be involved because they are taught to keep quiet.
When I arrived in Rio I was surprised by how much space there was to play and also by not seeing any girls playing on so many fields.
There’s no structure for girls team sports in school in Venezuela right now, but there is some change happening there. In 1995 the Venezuelan Men’s Football Team got their first FIFA ranking so being a fan became more popular and women playing was less of a problem. Since then progress has stopped, started and at times gone backward. The work for equality in sport hasn’t been sustained for female players. Last year there was more funding toward female teams, so I hope the progress will finally continue.
For me, we have a responsibility to help improve the situation for the next generation of girls. We need to make school and club sport structure better and more available to girls who want to play. We have to be completely dedicated to fix this problem because it is so difficult.
What did you enjoy most about the training?
I loved the exchange of information between people from very different backgrounds. We all live in different places and have different difficulties. Discussing such intense problems allowed us to know each other?s positions on things. I thought the conversation dynamic created a diplomatic atmosphere with respect and understanding. After one day I felt like I knew these people very well. I think football is the best tool for discussing difficult topics in my opinion.
The effort to communicate within the group was great and the approach that [CAC] brought was simple and there was always a well defined subject.
How will you act on what you learned in the training now that it is over?
The most important thing for me to do is to act out what I learned, and just be an example. I don’t have a group to go back and work with, but I do have a community. I will practice correcting without offending, trying to stimulate thought and stress how important education is. All it takes is one word to change someone’s day, or even life. Even a simple good morning, something so simple, can have an impact. Anyone can have that effect.
Coaches Across Continents: is a global leader in the sport for social impact movement who focuses on local issues such as: female empowerment, including gender equity; conflict prevention, including social inclusion; health and wellness, including HIV/AIDS behavior change; child rights; vital life skills; and fun. Their key to success is a unique Self-Directed Learning model that is based on our ‘Chance to Choice’ and ASK for Choice curricula that educate people to identify, address, and solve problems specific to their communities. They mentor organizations and empower communities to question harmful traditional, cultural, and religious practices; responsibly choose their own futures; and create sustainable change.