By Sarah Nasir | For IBSA
As one of only a few female blind football coaches around the world, Rosa del Carmen Cuque López has helped to build Guatemala’s national team into one of the best in Central America.
Blind football reached the country in 2010, starting off with recreational tournaments and using plastic balls with bells and stones inside. Three years later, training got more serious and Guatemala started to support the development of the sport more widely by holding unofficial Central American and Caribbean Championships.
This is when López came onto the scene. She started positively by forming The Sharks – a local team - and creating a formal training programme as well as helping to organise a series of tournaments for players to compete in.
In 2017 Guatemala made history by staging the very first IBSA Blind Football Central American Championships. The team finished second to Costa Rica, a good result for the hosts.
In addition to being one of the main driving forces of blind football in Guatemala and part of the national coaching staff, López has high aspirations that she hopes will make a difference to society in general.
“My biggest dream is to be able to build a sports complex for visually impaired people, where there would be a football field and a gym, where we can train systematically and with dignity in a sport we are very passionate about. Blind football is the passion that moves my heart, my soul and my feelings.”
Caption: Carmen López (fourth from the left) with other women participants at the 2017 IBSA Blind Football Central American Championships.
“It fills me with emotions to work with people with visual impairments. I do this on a voluntary basis and I’m grateful for this opportunity. I want to support people who work as volunteers and players with visual impairments so that there are no barriers of division and that work is done with unity for the integration, development and improvement of this sport.”
However, it is not easy; despite there being regular competitions and a growing movement, López and her team struggle for attention.
“It is not an easy task because there are no high performance programmes to prepare the players. There isn’t a talent recruitment programme, no overcrowding. Due to lack of support from sports institutions, blind football in Guatemala is not as high profile as traditional football.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even harder for López to keep moving forward as The Sharks are not able to train together in person or online for various reasons.
But López has already faced hurdles to be where her and her team are today. She has never allowed the practical realities to hold her back.
As Guatemala focuses on its men’s team, López also rallied women with visual impairments to try blind football as it develops around the globe. The first World Championships will be held in Enugu, Nigeria, in November 2021 and, prior to this major event, an international women’s blind football camp and games will take place in Hereford, England, in July.
“In the past women were afraid to face success or achieve anything without feeling unequal or humiliated. The rights of women over time have taught us that we can be heard, feel empowered to say that despite our feminine traits, we are a divine creation willing to conquer the world.”
“There is a promising future for women, a future without barriers. Therefore, I invite all visually impaired women from all over the world to be a part of blind football for women. A sport that will thrill and show that women can achieve something. Cheer up warriors, let’s be a part of blind football, and to the women who already practice it, I admire them and send them a big hug.”