Venezuela, traditionally a baseball-playing country, is not sending a team to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, after a disappointing performance in the qualifiers by its men’s national side.
CGTN’s Stephen Gibbs has more from Caracas.
Football is however gaining popularity in the Latin American nation, and particularly women’s football. There are 29 professional female teams that compete in this country’s premier league.
A major boost to the women’s game came in 2016. An exceptionally talented U17 side won the South American championship, and went on to come fourth in the FIFA U17 World Cup in Jordan.
Millions of Venezuelans, many of whom did not previously follow female football, watched the games, which were broadcast on national TV back home.
Deyna Castellanos, the photogenic captain, caught the global media and fans’ attention scoring 6 goals. She is now ranked by FIFA as the third best female player in world.
A documentary film about the team, ‘Nos Llaman Guerreras’ – ‘They Call us Warriors’ was released in Venezuela this year.
It tells the story of how the young women – who faced their own huge challenges to succeed on the football pitch – lifted the spirit of a nation, battered by an economic crisis.