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Youth Olympics

A Bolivian duo who know all about big challenges  

(FIFA.com)
Bolivia's Maria Galvez and Mechelle Pacheco pose for a picture
© FIFA.com
  • Bolivia will take part in the Youth Olympic Futsal Tournament
  • Maria Galvez and Mechelle Pacheco are the stars of the team
  • They share their thoughts before tough opener against Spain

Maria Galvez’s standout qualities as a futsal player are her eye-catching skills, which she honed as a child by dribbling between items of furniture, taking great pleasure in nutmegging the legs of dining room chairs.

On the other hand, Mechelle Pacheco’s main asset is her versatility, even filling in as a sweeper keeper if required. As a child she was heavily influenced by her father, a physical education teacher who is currently her national team coach.

Both girls, who will represent Bolivia in the Youth Olympic Futsal Tournament 2018 in Buenos Aires starting on 7 October, had to win over their families in order to play football.

“I used to play indoors at home because at first my parents didn’t want me being involved in football,” Maria told FIFA.com before checking into the National Centre for Sporting High Performance (CeNARD).

“In time they got used to it, and during school holidays I’d spend hours of my free time playing on the futsal court opposite our house,” she recalled. “I’d come home to eat but then I’d head straight back out to play. I’d do this every day”.

In Mechelle’s case, it was in fact her father who tried to steer her away from becoming a footballer. “He wanted me to be a singer, but that didn’t work out for him!” she said with a laugh.

Coach and father Ronald offered a justification for his stance, saying: “Becoming a footballer involves so much sacrifice that I thought it would best for her to focus on something else. But she always used to come along with me to work and on one occasion - she would’ve been five at the time - she came down from the stands to explain to some boys the training exercise that I’d asked them to do. That very day she started playing, and the rest is history.”

The pair also had challenges to overcome outside the home. “I have four brothers, so playing with boys was never a problem for me. I’d be singled out for my height though, and I was even left out of a team because of this,” explained the diminutive but gifted Maria, who stands at 1.50m tall.

Mechelle was 11 when she came across “guys overly critical of your game, and whose pride would take a hit if they were outplayed by a girl. Yet this has changed, and nowadays almost no boy would criticise women playing futsal,” she said.

Both Mechelle and Maria have already played in South American tournaments but acknowledge that taking part in a Youth Olympic Tournament is a step up in prestige.

“It makes me really proud to be involved with the Bolivian futsal team,” said Maria. “As does representing my country at the Olympic Games: it’s not like any other tournament. I look around the facilities here and I can’t believe my eyes!”

Mechelle isn’t fazed at all with the prospect of facing Spain in what promises to be a tough start for the Bolivians: “We’re not here to make up the numbers, we’re here to compete. We know what it means for us to be here.”

By representing Bolivia in the tournament, these players are in a position where they can set an example to follow for girls back in their home country. “I’d say to them keep training and never give up, because with hard work and a positive attitude they could get to where we’ve got to as well,” concluded Mechelle.

Maria – a brief factfile

  • 18 years old (13/08/2000)
  • Position: Forward
  • In the words of coach Pacheco: “She’s gifted, fearless and scores goals”.

Michelle – a brief factfile

  • 18 years old (10/06/2000)
  • Position: Winger
  • In the words of coach Pacheco: “She’s capable of playing across the back line and her tactical organisation is spot-on”.

Bolivia’s fixtures

  • 07.10 vs Spain
  • 08.10 vs Tonga
  • 10.10 vs Thailand
  • 12.10 vs Trinidad and Tobago

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