Spain duo Nuria and Pilar Garrote are identical twins and very hard to tell apart on and off the pitch. It is just as well, then, that they wear different numbers and different-coloured boots when they are in action.
Currently representing their country at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014, the lookalike siblings are used to being mistaken for each other, as a smiling Nuria explained.
“We were in our first season at Barcelona and I was playing in defence, which I didn’t enjoy that much. The coach got us mixed up and put me in the midfield, thinking I was Pilar. I kept quiet and my sister had to put up with playing in defence for a few games. We went back to our original positions when we got through to the end of the tournament, though.”
The differences between the two become clearer in conversation. Nuria is the more talkative and happier to take the initiative, while Pilar is more shy and chooses her words carefully.
Pointing out some of the other things that set them apart, Pilar said: “Nuria is very competitive and has a lot of character. She’s more versatile than I am as well. She’s played in every position, though she's more of a central defender these days, while I’m at my best in the centre and just behind the forwards.”
“She never gives the ball up,” said her twin, who cites Dani Alves and Jordi Alba as her role models. “She’s always looking for it and trying to get the team playing. She’s very skilful and dynamic and she’s got fantastic vision.”
“I think she needs to keep her temper in check when we play, though,” rejoined Pilar. “She needs to be more careful when she opens her mouth because she can upset people sometimes.”
Giving as good as she got, Nuria replied: “She stays on the ball for too long sometimes and takes too many touches. I often give her a hard time and tell her she should take no more than two.”
The 16-year-olds, who have an older sister who is a referee, put everything they have into their football, though their intense commitment sometimes leads to friction between them.
“We argue a lot on the pitch,” explained Pilar, an ardent admirer of Andres Iniesta. “When it’s your sister you tend to say things you wouldn’t to others. Sometimes I just switch flanks to avoid arguing with her.”
Despite the fights, these twins are as close as they come.
“Pilar is everything to me. She helps me when times are good and when they’re bad. I couldn’t be without her,” said Nuria.
“Nuria keeps me on the right path. She’d never let me lose my way,” said Pilar.
Separated and reunited
Having grown accustomed to doing virtually everything together, the Barcelona twins were parted when Nuria received her first international call-up in November 2011.
“I was really happy obviously, but when I got to Madrid I started to miss her,” she explained. “My team-mates helped me but I couldn’t stop thinking about how she’d be feeling back home.”
Giving her side of the story, Pilar said: “I was very happy for her, but as a player it affected me, of course it did. Nevertheless, I kept on working hard and in the end I managed to get my call-up too.”
The Garrote twins and their Spain team-mates have some hard work ahead of them after losing to Japan in their first outing in Group C, a setback to which the indefatigable Nuria responded by tweeting: “Sometimes you have to lose a battle to win the war.”