Kickingball, a mixture of football and baseball is experiencing a surge in popularity amongst Venezuelan refugees around the world, specifically in Spain, Argentina and the US.
The sport is played exclusively by women in Venezuela and was introduced to the country by a teacher in 1965 as a variation of the two sports, the game is typically played on a softball diamond pitch and uses three bases.
Many refugees who were forced to flee the once-prosperous democracy turned to the sport after autocratic President Nicolás Maduro rose to power and drove the country into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2014 fuelled by a drop in global oil prices.
One Venezuelan refugee Marián de Lima arrived in Madrid six years ago and contacted the city’s kicking ball team through Facebook.
She said participating in the sport has provided her with a safety net far from home: “Most of the members have always been there to support you, to help you with whatever you need. They are always available and it has been a help to be calmer and not feel alone outside of a country that is not your own,” she told Euronews.
Adriana Ferrer is the president of the local team, the Madrid Panthers, and told Euronews’ reporter Carlos Marlasca: “the men, the boys, played basketball and football and the girls played kickball because it was introduced that way because it was played on the oil rigs.”
Team president, Madrid Panthers
Little by little, more and more women of other nationalities are taking up kickingball, so it also acts as a great tool for integration. The Madrid Panthers are preparing for the championships and it is a first for many of them.
“We share values such as respect, communication, friendship and teamwork. It’s more feminine and better understood from woman to woman” said one of the players, Oriana Castro.
Ferrer said the team want more spaces in which kickball can be played to help these women better integrate into society.