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How Venezuela and floorball slowly turn into a perfect match

Floorball in Venezuela is rising. We spoke with Lionel Escalona, Secretary General of the Floorball Venezuelan Federation (FVFL).

Introduction
In October 2016, Escalona started his work at the FVFL. He got in touch with a France club called Les Trolls de Annecy, which sent materials to Venezuela. The 29-year-old says “in our country disciplines such as baseball and soccer dominate, there was much resistance (with floorball) at the beginning.” In April 2017, already two clubs were founded in Venezuela, one in Caracas and one in Barquisimeto, Escalona’s hometown.


First floorball training sessions in Venezuela

How does floorball look like in Venezuela?
“We try to make floorball inclusive, it allows many athletes to be kept in play. With sports like football or baseball, only a few can join. We break this exclusionary scheme with this sport and we give participation and possibility of play. Due to the physical demands of floorball, we include all the children and this has been an offer so that more people get involved every day.” In Escalona’s country, there are thousands of young people that lack the economic strength to practice organized sports. Floorball is offered for free and without financial demands for those who wish to practice it.

Right now in Barquisimeto, there are 488 active athletes, all between U10 and U19 categories. In total, they have eighty sticks and eighty balls and two goalie masks. Unfortunately, there’s no rink. In Caracas, there are two senior teams and a special team – which won silver in the Special Olympics in its division. The teams in Caracas play with fifty sticks, hundred balls and two masks.

“We have recently held the first regional floorball tournament in the U13 category for men and women. Thirteen teams participated: nine men’s and four women’s teams”, Escalona continues. “I estimate that, for December, with the inventive handcrafted stick starting from the recycling material, we can serve a thousand athletes throughout the national territory.”

“With the inventive handcrafted stick starting from the recycling material, we can serve a thousand athletes.”

Following international games
Through YouTube, the Venezuelans try to watch floorball videos and international matches. Next to that, Skype is being used, when French national team players Tiuna and Manaure Russo carried out a clinic and directed a training for an U13 team. “We know the great level of the Czechs and the Finns and we closely follow the participation of these teams since, at some point, we will face them with the national team of Venezuela in a World Championship and – why not? – in an open elite tournament.

IFF Membership
More than a year ago, Venezuela became an official member of the IFF. This opened the doors for the Venezuelan state to recognize the FVFL as a sports organization and support all activities. Escalona: “It’s essential to have the recognition of the National Sports Institute of Venezuela (IND), as this allows a greater boost to floorball.”

Due to the IFF’s recognition, the IND realized that floorball has an international backing. There has been formed an association of clubs called ‘Floorball Association of Lara State’ – although there’s still much to do as there are 23 states in Venezuela. Floorball in Venezuela has become more dynamic thanks to the IFF’s recognition, so that the development can be accelerated even more.

Lionel, you’re in the Venezuelan floorball board. What drives you?
“My goal is clear: to revolutionize sports in my country through floorball and to help transform our reality.” Escalona continues in almost a philosophical way: “I believe that, through floorball, we can combat the mediocrity, building a sports structure that is productive, self-sustainable and self-sustaining. We have a well-rounded project that defines the lines of actions of Floorball Venezuela so that the sport can be consolidated and maintained over time.”

“The motivation? We have executed this project without receiving money from anyone, only with the help that our friends from the Trolls of France have given us with the game material and on one occasion, the IFF sent us development material. Everything has been free so far, my work and that of my colleagues, the coaches, the referees and all the people who are directly or indirectly involved with Floorball Venezuela. I know we need money for operability, but so far we managed to operate without the financial resource.”

“On the other hand, it motivates me to promote this sport, the smile of every child that plays floorball, the enthusiasm. They play and get involved as if they’ve played this sport for their whole life. There is a precise case that I can mention for you. In Barquisimeto, there is a team ‘The Bear Frontinos’, which became the first organized sport in the community. They share the sports facilities with a soccer school that has more than five years of operation, but Bear Frontinos has managed to incorporate more boys and girls than the other discipline – in only two years!”

“Another thing is that sports unites us and makes us forget our social problems: on the field, we are all the same, there is only solidarity, respect, discipline, perseverance and other values that are helping us to combat leisure and win the fight against crime and drug addiction that are more common today. We have children of very low economic status, even employees of low conditions, sometimes this represents a problem, but thanks to solidarity we always overcome this kind of thing. In short, with floorball I think we have a powerful tool for sports to enter the history of the country and of Latin America, without getting involved with political parties, only with work.”

We thank Lionel Escalona for his help in this interview. If you have floorball (or other sport) equipment that you don’t use anymore, there’s the opportunity to send them to Lionel Escalona in Venezuela. Contact us and we’ll get you to him. Anything is welcome: used children’s shoes, used clothing, floorball gear and any other help.

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