Soravilla: You have to make the most of every moment

  • Uruguayan player was diagnosed with a heart problem

  • Gave up professional football as a result

  • Currently on Nacional’s coaching staff at the Copa Libertadores

Sabrina Soravilla’s world fell apart when she was told by a doctor that her playing days were over. The awful news came when she underwent a routine check before travelling to the 2021 Copa Libertadores Femenina with Uruguayan club Nacional, a check that picked up a previously undetected heart condition. Suddenly, at the age of 25, she had to give up the game she loved.

“I went to my mum and just burst out crying,” Soravilla told FIFA.com. “She spent ages trying to calm me down. My world had fallen in on me.” The former Uruguay player was speaking from the Paraguayan capital Asuncion, where she is helping Nacional bid for glory in the final rounds of the Copa Libertadores, albeit from the sidelines, as part of the club’s coaching staff.

In making a fresh start, she has had to show guts and character, the very same qualities she showed during her career with club and country and which took her to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012 and the 2018 Copa America Feminina.

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - SEPTEMBER 23: Jiahui Lei of China PR is tackled by Sabrina Soravilla of Uruguay during the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2012 group D match between Uruguay and China PR at the Dalga Arena on September 23, 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Steve Bardens - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

“I thought my life was over. I thought I was due a new one, even if I didn’t want it and hadn’t trained for it,” added Soravilla. “I was angry and I didn’t know who to turn to. Then I calmed down and began to see the positive side of them detecting the problem before anything bad happened. But to begin with, when they pointed that out to try and give me a lift, it just made me feel worse. Things just looked bleak.”

She played her last game on 10 October this year, the end of a career that had started in her home town of Solymar, where her father and brother had encouraged her to take up the game. She joined Nacional – where her twin sister Romina also plays – in 2012, at the age of 16, and turned professional with the club in July 2020.

As Soravilla went on to explain, Nacional had a big part to play in getting her back on her feet: “I allowed myself just to feel bad for a while, but then I said to myself that there was nothing I could do about what happened, that I had no control over it and that I needed to do something for the future. I didn’t want to be depressed and sad, and Nacional made a proposal that gave me a way out. It really helped me get out of the hole I was in.”

The proposal involved helping out head coach Diego Testas. “They invited me to go to the Copa so I could share my experience, but they’re also interested in me staying close to the team afterwards, as part of the coaching staff,” she explained.

So what does she do in her new post? “I help the coach set up the training sessions, putting out cones and goals and setting up circuits, and I also give him a hand with the GPS devices and collecting data. They also want me to bring my vision as a player, to make little corrections or motivate the girls, but I still find that pretty hard. Everything’s happened so quickly and I’m still getting used to it.”

Explaining the hardest part of her new life, she said: “Seeing the ball and not being able to play. And then when I’m standing behind the goal at shooting practice and the ball comes flying by, I start running after it and have to stop myself,” she added with a smile.

Sabrina Soravilla of Nacional of Uruguay walks with team’s coach Diego Testas (Photo: courtesy Dayana Ravelo/Decano)

Soravilla, who is about to graduate as a physiotherapist, is now planning to go for some coaching badges: “I thought about doing it when I retired, but I’ve had to bring those plans forward, especially now the club’s given me this opportunity. I think I’ll do it next year.”

In the meantime, she is enjoying watching Nacional at her third Libertadores tournament, her first from the sidelines: “We’ve never been better prepared and we feel we’ve got even more to give.”

Soravilla, who grew up an admirer of the defensive skills of midfielders Egidio Arevalo Rios and Diego Rodriguez, is equally optimistic about Uruguay’s national women’s team: “They’ve come on and they’ve got some really good players, but they need more time together as a group. There are a few of them who play abroad and they don’t have much chance to get together and play. We need more friendlies so they can prepare better, but the quality is there. I hope they make it to the next World Cup.”

Soravilla has already established herself as an example for others to follow and as an authoritative voice on the game. “I don’t see myself that way,” she replied. “My situation had a big impact and it’s something everyone can learn from. You never know what might happen to you and you have to be ready. Training is key.

“A lot of female players can make a living from this, but you need a base to work from and other options in life just in case things don’t work out,” she added. “And it’s important to enjoy yourself. Sometimes you forget. You do things out of habit. But when something so good comes up, you realise that you have to make the absolute most out of every moment.”

Photos courtesy of Dayana Ravelo (Decano) and Diego Andres Martinez (Nacional de Montevideo).

Sabrina and Romina Soravilla of Nacional of Uruguay are seen after winning the Uruguayan tournament (Photo: courtesy of Nacional)