At a young age in Guatemala, Anne Van Beusekom grew up honing her football skills in the back garden.
Although none of her siblings are very interested in sports, Anne’s dad encouraged her to talk to her elementary school principal about putting together a girls’ team – which the school has. finally done.
Anne fell in love with the beautiful game at age 11. “From then on, football was part of my life. There was not a time, apart from the pandemic, where I did not play football,” said the 31-year-old, who participated in football tournaments across Central America. .
At the age of 18, Anne had to choose a university. “One of the most important questions when deciding (where to study) was where to play football.”
After deciding against the United States, a friend of Anne’s living in Argentina recommended that she study in the country which has twice won the World Cup and which is famous for its passion for football. After all, it was Argentina, the homeland of football legend Diego Maradona.
Anne applied to the University of Palermo in Buenos Aires and was accepted to study Marketing, leaving behind Guatemala and her family.
After arriving in Argentina, she suffered culture shock. “I realized when I got there that the girls don’t play football here.”
Anne spent several months before finally finding a women’s team in college.
Due to her impressive performances on the pitch, Anne was later chosen to represent a selection of universities in Buenos Aires, playing in Mendoza and traveling abroad to the Dominican Republic to face the Women’s National Team in an 11-a-side game. .
After graduating from college, Anne knew she could stay in Argentina for the right opportunity. After seeing the advertisement for a football coordinator position, she applied online.
Anne was accepted by ‘Buenos Aires FÃºtbol Amigos’ (Buenos Aires Football Friends) or ‘BAFA’.
BAFA is a mobile application allowing footballers to select at their convenience the time and day of the matches they wish to play. There are around 600 active players.
BAFA has a multicultural atmosphere with a mix of locals and internationals who can play in 6-a-side or 9-a-side matches. It was initially set up by two expats around 2010.
After settling in the Southern Cone, the founders Mike from the US and Dave from the UK wanted to play football in Argentina but didn’t know enough people.
From there, BAFA started organically.
The two expats texted inviting friends and asking them to spread the message to make sure they could get enough footballers together for a game.
As the popularity grew, the founders switched platforms several times – from email to Facebook to a website and eventually ended up with a mobile app.
Today, BAFA allows players like the Argentinian Cristian Daniel Cejas, 37, from the province of Buenos Aires who discovered the application through a friend – to create an account, to register different games, make friends on the app and buy a number of games.
Although Cristian describes himself as an “introverted person,” he says, “the BAFA app has helped me meet new people and learn more about their life stories and culture.”
Away from the pressures of studying to become a history teacher, Cristian made friendships with people from the UK, the Faroe Islands, Venezuela, Brazil, Guatemala and Colombia. On the pitch, he created a good understanding in the central midfielder with his “Argentinian partner”, Jorge Niklison.
Cristian says the international sensation means that some players tend to maintain the “typical style of play from their home country”.
He says British players have a ‘straightforward’ style of play, focused on speed, wing play, reflecting aspects of the ‘Premier League’.
However, Cristian says “the South Americans have a more possession-oriented style of play.”
Many Venezuelans have settled in Argentina following the socio-economic decline of their country in recent years. Cristian says 3 Venezuelan players are among the most talented players, with good technique, power and ability on the ball.
Nevertheless, BAFA’s goal is the inclusion of all players, whatever their ability, with their motto âunited in diversityâ.
BAFA has become a multicultural and inclusive space where female and male players can play together.
In doing so, he is changing the predominantly male âmachoâ culture that exists in South American football.
“Until about ten years ago in Argentina, there weren’t really any mixed matches.” explained Anne, “We’ve always tried to establish a culture where everyone is welcome here. It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl – you’re going to play too.”
Initially, not enough players signed up for the games, said Anne. âWe ended up creating mixed games. The atmosphere is a little lighter and more relaxed where the idea is to enjoy it. So many people have started to sign up and it has become very popular. Mixed play has a social aspect. It’s not just about football. It’s something from a cultural point of view that has started to be accepted. “
It has since grown in popularity.
Over the past decade in Argentina, female and male office colleagues have started playing together and there are mixed competitive tournaments, Anne says.
The multicultural environment means that BAFA has fostered a sense of community and belonging for expats and locals, becoming a place away from the pressures of work or study to build friendships and share collective experiences on the football field.
âThanks to BAFA, there have been couples, babies and friends who travel together and share experiences,â said Anne.
In the pre-COVID era, for many different nationals discovering Argentina for the first time, BAFA would be their first opportunity to try the famous âAsadoâ or barbecue after a game.
Cristian says that when he is involved in the game, it reminds him of the positive role that sport can play across the world.
âFootball is able to unite all the people of the world and without discrimination of gender, race or nationality. We can speak different languages, but the language of football is something we all speak on the pitch. unique, âhe added.
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