The five stars of the women’s Goalball team of Peru in Santiago 2023
Date: November 21, 2023
The women’s Goalball national team of Peru is one of the eight squads that are competing in the Para Pan American Games – Santiago 2023. They started the competition with the host national team of Chile, and they lost (2-4), but the result is the least important in this story.
The Peruvian team came to Santiago with five players, and they are the only ones in the country. The five stars’ heroes represent the whole nation.
Jenniffer Mamani Cheje, 28, lives in Lima, and she represents very well the passion, or La Pásion, better said, the love that the Peruvian women’s team feels about Goalball. They don’t have a national Goalball championship, so this means that their training sessions are always with each other.
“In 2017, two years before the Para PanAmerican Games – Lima 2019, through the Maximus Project, of which IBSA was one of the subscriber organisations to develop sports, I got in touch with Goalball for the first time. By that time, I was at the university, and I was in charge of recruiting young boys and girls with disabilities to play Goalball. I have to confess that the first impact was very painful, physically speaking, and I left for a while. But then I returned, and everything went well until now”, started Mamani, jersey number 1 of Peru.
There are no Goalball clubs in Peru, so what keeps Mamani, Nicole Ochavano, Milagros Cotrina, Nicole Pérez, and Diana Flores going?
“We have two hours of training sessions every day, five days a week, nothing else. We have a venue in La Videna [Sport Centre in Lima], but it is not always available because there is no dedicated space for Goalball, so we need to share the same venue, for example, with handball and basketball, and sometimes even the noise affects our sessions. We are already used to these conditions and keep working with what we have. The reason to go on? The love for the game, for sure”.
Jenniffer Mamani would like to have more competition in Peru. Training all alone makes the road to success harder, and the difference for the opponents in international tournaments is clear.
“But in those competitions abroad, we feel we grow up and learn so much. Here in Santiago, for example, we would love to win, like everybody else, but sometimes it is just not possible. We know we work hard, so we just need to carry on, moving forward, learning from all our mistakes, correcting them, and taking these experiences very seriously. Actually, one of the best things we will take from Santiago 2023 is team spirit. We leave Chile stronger than ever”.
Mamani gets inspiration for her Goalball from Brazilian player Ana Carolina’s style. The famous backthrow under the legs, but she confessed that it hasn’t been working as she wanted. “I think it’s because I am not used to this kind of field of play. The impact of the ball makes it jump in a different way, less than what I am used to. We have been learning in a continuous process, learning by doing”.
One thing is for sure: Mamani is always smiling during the matches. Always! The joy of the competition is present for the physiotherapist studying communications in San Marcos, getting her master degree in Digital Business. All the team is part of a programme of the government of Peru, which gives them a subsidy with accommodation and meals at La Videna Sport Centre.