From the Vegetable Garden to the Football Pitch

With more than 450 players representing 42 countries at this year’s Homeless World Cup tournament, few will be as young as 16-year-old Paraguayan player Fanny Fretes.

The youngster, who hails from the rural San Pedro Department, lives with her grandmother and speaks mostly in her native indigenous Guarani tongue.

Fretes is among the many players who are using their time here to improve both their linguistic and footballing ability. She is taking advantage of her time off the pitch to converse with players from other South and Central American nations to improve her spoken Castellano (Spanish).

“I’m learning a lot by being here at the Homeless World Cup. For example, my Castellano has improved. I don’t know how to speak a lot of it. And as all of my team mates speak to me in Guarani, I’ve taken the opportunity to speak with other players in their native Castellano,” she says.

Not only is she focusing on adding new words to her vocabulary, she is enjoying the chance to find out more about the cultures of the players who come from countries much different from her own.

“I’m really enjoying the tournament and the chance to meet other people from other cultures. I’ve spoken to a lot of other players from the likes of Poland, Peru, Italy, Norway and Greece.”

Fretes is currently in her first year of at a self-sustainable agricultural school in Paraguay, where students between the ages of 14 and 18 come to learn how to do things like support a vegetable garden and make their own produce in tandem with their studies.

And alongside her footballing abilities, Fretes was chosen by the Fundación Paraguaya team for her good grades in school and her good behaviour—something that is reflected in what she loves most about playing football.

“The discipline for me is what I enjoy most about playing football. I feel very proud to wear the shirt of Paraguay at such a young age. My family are proud of me and are supporting me,” she says.

Many of the players participating in the Homeless World Cup tournament have never played 4 v 4-style football on such small pitches before.

And with Fretes being one of them, she is keen to explain and speak at length about it to her friends when she returns home.

“I want to help others when I go back and speak to them about the type of football being played at the tournament and how the game is played and what positions the players play in and things like that,” she reveals.

Helping her manoeuvre her way through the tournament are, of course, her team mates, who come from all over the country and who together have formed a strong bond.

“We are family, we get along very well with each other, and we work as a team. Away from the pitch, we spend most of our time making jokes with one another,” Fretes says.

And as well as being an agent of change for other youngsters in her community by telling them all about her time with Team Paraguay, she can’t wait to fill her grandmother in on her Mexican adventure.

“I’m going to tell my grandmother everything that happened here and how much I’ve enjoyed my experience here among different cultures,” she says.

Words: Craig Williams
Images: Daniel Lipinski