Venezuela’s Struggle for WJUC2014 Representation

by | July 23, 2014, 7:23am 12

As the 2014 World Junior Ultimate Championships started a few days ago in Lecco, Italy, 25 national teams were supposed to take the pitch in the Open and Women’s divisions. However, the tournament was forced to start one team down, as the Venezuelan Open Squad had to drop out of competition a few days prior to the opening ceremony. As the reasons behind the sudden change of plans were never made public, there was a lot of speculation surrounding the circumstances.

The reason behind this turn of events is simple: politics. Venezuela’s government has frozen the normal exchange of currency and demands a whole lot of bureaucratic paperwork before anyone can be awarded the right to exchange the national currency, the “Bolivar” to any other. Players that need to buy travel tickets and pay team and player fees in dollars have to go through an intense process in order to be awarded the right to exchange their money and use it in a foreign country.

Last year, the U23 squads had a similar situation when they started the process to travel to Canada for the U23 World Championships in Toronto. They had been working for months and planned on taking two youth squads with the most talented players the nation has to offer, but were let down when their currency exchange process was denied, even when they had all the money necessary in Venezuelan currency, and even when their sport was in representation of their own country. The body of government who decides on exchange matters simply stated that ultimate was not an acknowledged sports discipline. Finally, after numerous complaints from the organization, they were awarded the right to exchange bolivares to dollars – albeit only 25% of their initial budget. With such little funds, they had to cut down their numbers and travel as one mixed team. Even so, they had an incredible run in the tournament, upset Japan early on, and proved to the world the incredible talent and worth of Venezuelan ultimate. They finished 4th overall with a 17-strong squad that played with their hearts and souls.

After this incredible participation on the international stage of Ultimate, Venezuelan players and coaches thought they could come even close to a medal and started working exclusively on developing a U19 Open squad with 26 of the best athletes the land of oil and beauty queens has to offer. They began in November of 2013, by holding tryouts for 50 of the very best. Some of them had to be cut simply because they had no possibilities of obtaining the travel documents they need (Passports), and some of them were exceptional players that had no assistance from their own country to obtain in a great amount of time what other countries can give in a small amount of time.

The work kept coming and the coaches and organizers had already started their fight against the system by establishing communication with the Ministry of Sports, who had to approve their currency proposal for the competition. They thought it would be simpler because of the U23 participation and because the project had social characteristics aligned with the present state’s political mindset. They could not be more wrong. After presenting folders filled with information and legal documentation months prior to competition, they were let down with a refusal of approval. They contested the decision and opened communications with the governing body, who continued to appeal while they kept working with the squad, training and competing in national preparation tournaments on both beach and grass surfaces. The juniors worked hard on the field and played against, lost and won against the best elite teams in the nation, which is no simple task, taking into account that in back to back Panamerican championships the elite team Warao has reached the finals and lost against the second best team in the World (Seattle Sockeye). Meanwhile, their coaches worked fought the bureaucracy that is the Venezuelan government, met with the Vice-Minister of Sports, explained the nature of the sport, the governing rules of Spirit of the Game and why it was important for kids to learn how to resolve their problems and differences in a polite and spirited manner, inside and outside of the field. The Vice-Minister agreed to help, and the organizers even signed a sponsorship deal with Gatorade so they could get the funds to travel and play. All they needed was a signed document that could allow them to exchange the Venezuelan funds into European Euros so they could pay for travel and playing fees.

They were denied again. The trip was cancelled. The kids had to bite down on that tough pill and go home. The reason for denial was that only sports disciplines approved by the state were allowed the right to exchange. Their work and deals were rendered useless when their government decided that Ultimate Frisbee was not worth the effort, that our sport was no real sport, and that all that work those kids put into their dream of taking a medal home for their country was no work at all. Sad is the reality that Venezuelans have to live with when they cannot chase their dreams of catching plastic in end zones around the world and earning the right to be called one of the best nations in the sport of ultimate.

Nevertheless, Team Manager Juan Julian Peña and Head Coach Jose Angel Rodriguez shared their plans for the future, and the plans were to keep fighting for the nations youth and their involvement in future world events, to keep training the kids and to keep filing extensive paperwork until their sport projects are approved and their players take a medal home for their country, Venezuela.

 

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  • Excellent work, thanks for spreading the note, we are unstoppable, one door closes and a window opens.

    One step at a time and through god we will see in the next World U 23.

  • Anonymous

    The Venezuelan mixed team was AMAZING at U23's last year!! This is so frustrating. It will only get harder as the Venezuelan government phases out the Venezuelan passport, making it impossible to travel (currency conversion issues aside) without first doing extensive paperwork and getting permits from the government. They make it very hard for educated youth to leave, since they know they have a future outside of Venezuela and are more likely to immigrate. So sad to know that so much talent and preparation won't be making it to the international fields. A seguir luchando! Vamos vinotinto!

  • chuchinloreto

    Thanks David and Skyd for this note that explains the situation our kids and coaches had to go thru… we keep on playing and teaching our youth the importance of the Spirit of the game in and off the field… as a medium for conflict resolution and a life style… Venezuela is the first country from South America to participate in a WFDF event in 1991 and the first Regular member of the WFDF since 1993 as well… the Yanomami spirit will continue for generations to come…. The governments past… but Ultimate will live on… Gracias !

  • Vane

    Gracias Por explicar al mundo lo que nadie puede creer o entener que Venezuela tomada por gente incompetente desde hace 15 años y esta ideologia politica obsoleta que nos aleja mas del mundo y no permite el intercambio cultural y deportivo, solo ve por el beneficio de unos cuantos, vivimos la corrupcion mas grande del mundo abanderada con una disque lucha social, es muy lamentable. SOS Venezuela!

  • F Ultimate Player.

    1st.: Many people in this Country cannot understand what ULTIMATE FRISBEE means for us. That's why we must organize things HERE.
    2nd: "Potro" Alvarez is the Ministry of Sports and HE DIDN'T CARE ABOUT THE 26 HEARTS HE HAD BROKEN; however, we'll fight for our rights and for our sport in our country.
    3rd: Stop being blind. Organization is the key.

  • Mirian Parra

    Hello I am the mother of one of the players of this great team Yanomami, thanks for your words, they are very successful that is the sad reality of life here in my beloved country Venezuela, if like many think there is a lot of talent here, but with well broken wings by this government … do not understand how they could not give our guys a chance to compete they are a great team winner, with many hopes and dreams of representing their country, strive for something quite practicing every day and her spirit is indefatigable and flying, so love Ultimate .. is not fair …. but there is a god who protects them and looks forward guys .. they faint, fighting and sport continuous and units are already winners …

  • danigonzalez

    Thanks for spreading the word, David! I am taking part of the tournament as coach for another nation (despite being Venzuelan), and many people has asked me why Venezuela did not bring a team. It is really frustrating for me to try to explain people why… the whole thing is just very complicated, and people coming from other countries without such a problems does not understands the complexity of our problems.

    This article describes very well the situation that the whole Ultimate community is going thru. This has been the main reason for such a little participation of Venezuelan teams in international activities all this years (All categories).

    I know there is people working hard over to bring the Venezuelan ultimate abroad. Thanks to them. I know there are current and merging generations working hard to keep a good competition level, many thanks to them as well. For all them I just say: Keep on working, keep on moving forward, because there is still work to do!

    Un abrazo a mi querida comunidad de ultimate venezolana!

  • Roberto Pinate

    This is another small example of all the crap honest people in Venezuela have to deal with this so call revolutionary government. The Venezuelan Government is full of corruption and incompetence.
    Juan Julian and Golilla keep working hard for a better country, un abrazo Roberto Pinate

  • Everyone on that team and all their coaches are WINNERS! They are part of the family and they are spirit of the game heroes!

  • Gabriel Picón

    Caramba tanto esfuerzo…., a respirar y pa lante…hay que apoyar y encontrar tiempo para fortalecer los clubes que no pueden salir del país. Las esperanzas para estos jóvenes luchadores necesitan encontrar otros caminos. Tendremos que sacarlos a competir,

    Aquí una traducción para expandir el mensaje…. El Campeonato Mundial Junior de Ultimate de 2014 se inició hace unos días en Lecco, Italia, se suponía que 25 equipos nacionales iban a tomar el terreno de juego en el Abierto y las divisiones de Mujeres. Sin embargo, el torneo se vio obligado a iniciar con un equipo menos, el equipo venezolano tuvo que abandonar la competencia unos días antes de la ceremonia de apertura. Debido a que las razones detrás del repentino cambio de planes nunca se hicieron públicos, hubo mucha especulación en torno a las circunstancias.
    La razón detrás de este giro de los acontecimientos es simple: la política. El gobierno de Venezuela ha congelado el intercambio normal de la moneda y exige una gran cantidad de trámites burocráticos antes de que aprueben el derecho de cambiar la moneda nacional, el "Bolívar" a cualquier otra divisa. Los jugadores que necesitan comprar los billetes de viaje y pagar las inscripciones del equipo en dólares tienen que pasar por un proceso intenso con el fin de recibir el derecho de cambiar su dinero y usarlo en un país extranjero.

  • Gabriel Picón

    Sigue la traducción…_
    El año pasado, los equipos de la Sub-23 tuvieron una situación similar cuando comenzaron el proceso de viajar a Canadá para el Campeonato del Mundo Sub-23 en Toronto. Habían estado trabajando durante meses y planeado formar dos equipos juveniles con los jugadores más talentosos que el país tiene, pero se decepcionaron cuando se les negó su proceso de cambio de divisas, incluso cuando tenían todo el dinero necesario en moneda venezolana, e incluso cuando su deporte iba en representación de su propio país. El organismo de gobierno que decide sobre cuestiones de cambio, simplemente declaró que el Ultimate no era una disciplina deportiva reconocida. Finalmente, después de numerosas quejas de la organización, se les otorgó el derecho a cambiar bolívares a dólares – aunque sólo el 25% de su presupuesto inicial. Con estos pocos fondos, tuvieron que reducir su número y viajar como un equipo mixto. Aun así, tuvieron una increíble participación en el torneo, vencieron a Japón al principio, y demostró al mundo el increíble talento y el valor del Ultimate Venezolano. Terminaron 4tos en conjunto con un fuerte equipo de 17 jugadores que jugó con sus corazones y almas.
    Después de esta increíble participación en la escena internacional de Ultimate, los jugadores venezolanos y entrenadores pensaron que podrían llegar siquiera cerca de una medalla y comenzaron a trabajar exclusivamente en el desarrollo de una plantilla abierta U19 con 26 de los mejores atletas que pudo ofrecer la tierra del petróleo y reinas de belleza. Ellos comenzaron en noviembre de 2013, mediante la celebración de las pruebas para 50 de los mejores. Algunos de ellos tuvieron que ser retirados, simplemente porque no tenían posibilidades de obtener los documentos de viaje necesarios (pasaportes), y algunos de ellos eran jugadores excepcionales que no tenían la ayuda de su propio país para obtener los papeles en un largo periodo de tiempo, lo que otros países pueden dar en un corto tiempo.
    El trabajo continuaba y los entrenadores y organizadores ya habían comenzado su lucha contra el sistema mediante el establecimiento de la comunicación con el Ministerio de Deportes, que tuvo que aprobar su propuesta de divisas para la competencia. Ellos pensaron que sería más sencillo debido a la participación U23 y porque el proyecto tenía características sociales alineados con mentalidad política del estado actual. No podían estar más equivocados. Después de la presentación de carpetas llenas de información y documentación legal meses antes de la competencia, el gobierno los decepcionó con una negación de la solicitud. Ellos cuestionaron la decisión y enviaron comunicaciones públicas al órgano de gobierno, y continuaron la apelación, mientras que siguieron trabajando con el equipo, entrenando y compitiendo en los torneos nacionales de preparación tanto en la playa y las superficies de grama. Los jóvenes trabajaron duro en la cancha donde perdieron y ganaron juegos en contra los mejores equipos de elite de la nación, lo cual no es tarea fácil, teniendo en cuenta que en los campeonatos Panamericanos el equipo élite Warao alcanzó la final y perdió contra el segundo mejor equipo del mundo (Seattle Sockeye). Mientras tanto, sus entrenadores trabajaban peleando la burocracia del gobierno de Venezuela, se reunieron con el Viceministro de Deportes, le explicaron la naturaleza del deporte, las reglas que gobiernan el espíritu del juego y por qué era importante que los niños aprender a resolver sus problemas y diferencias de una manera cortés y enérgica, dentro y fuera del campo. El Vice-Ministro accedió a ayudar, y los organizadores incluso firmaron un acuerdo de patrocinio con Gatorade para obtener los fondos para viajar y jugar. Todo lo que necesitaban era un documento firmado que podría permitirles cambiar los fondos venezolanos en Euros europeos para que pudieran pagar el viaje y los honorarios de juego.
    Se les negó de nuevo. El viaje fue cancelado. Los niños tenían que morder esa píldora dura y volver a casa. El motivo de la negación fue que sólo disciplinas deportivas aprobadas por el estado eran las permitidas y con derecho a intercambios. Su trabajo y ofertas fueron inútiles cuando el gobierno decidió que el Ultimate-Frisbee no valía la pena el esfuerzo, que nuestro deporte no era un deporte real, y que todo el trabajo que esos niños pusieron en sus sueños de traer a casa una medalla para su país no era un trabajo en absoluto. Triste es la realidad que los venezolanos tienen que vivir cuando ellos no pueden perseguir sus sueños de capturar el plástico en las zonas de gol de todo el mundo y ganar el derecho a ser llamados, uno de los mejores países en el deporte de Ultimate.
    Sin embargo, el directivo del equipo Juan Julián Peña y el entrenador en jefe, José Ángel Rodríguez compartieron sus planes para el futuro, y los planes eran que seguir luchando para que los jóvenes del país y su participación en los eventos mundiales futuros, mantener el entrenamiento de los niños y mantener la presentación del exceso de trámites hasta la aprobación de sus proyectos deportivos y sus jugadores puedan traer a sus hogares una medalla para su país, Venezuela.

  • Daniel Picon

    Buena esa Papa!