A female soccer player who shines with her own light
At the young age of 3, Evelyn showed the potential to become a soccer player. Her uncle, a soccer coach, discovered her talent and encouraged her in the sport. “Although for many this is a men's sport, I supported my niece. When Evelyn saw a ball, she would chase it and guide it with her feet, which is why I never hesitated to give her my support. The girl was never afraid to play; despite the kicks and being hit with the ball, she entered the field with everything”, says her uncle Darwin. "In my parish, they told me that soccer is only for boys, that I should go play with dolls, but I never liked them and I kept practising," says Evelyn.
Evelyn's sporting career was not easy. She lived with her grandfather for a long time because her mother migrated to another city, she did not have a job in her community and had to meet the needs of Evelyn and her two siblings. This situation forced the girl to be responsible for housework and combine it with school, catechism and sports practices where she has been outstanding.
At 8 years old, Evelyn had her first contact with World Vision Ecuador when she was sponsored; back then, she had the opportunity to receive the support of the organization, not only for transportation to her training sessions; but also, as part of various training, development and participation processes that also involved her family and her community. She nostalgically recalls a camp she attended on children's rights.
Evelyn's parish is located in a rural sector of the Ecuadorian coast, surrounded by lots of nature and away from the main cities; they do not have all the utilities. For this reason, girls and boys must travel for a long time to study or have a medical check-up. To go to Santo Domingo de Los Tsáchilas - the hometown of the team she was a part of: Club Deportivo Santo Domingo - she had to get up at 4 am to get to training on time, many times she did not have breakfast and arrived just at time to the field. Those were her first steps into the professional league.
In 2019, when she was 12 years old, Evelyn made world headlines when the Guinness World Record recognized her as the youngest woman on the planet to play for a professional soccer league team. “Actually, I did not understand very well what was happening. My brother saw it on the news, but at that time I didn't have a cell phone and couldn't see. I felt happy with amazement because I had not heard of that recognition before. After talking to my coach I understood what it meant and I was very happy. I had several interviews, which scared me because I'm very shy, but I realized that all the effort I put in began to bear fruit”, says Evelyn.
At 14, the talented midfielder was recruited by the Dragonas team of the Club Deportivo Independiente del Valle to play in the Ecuadorian Women's Super League. It’s been a year since she moved to Valle de Los Chillos, 40 minutes from Quito, along with four other players whom she calls "cousins." Her normal day starts in the morning with breakfast, gym or rehabilitation, and training and concludes with her school classes. “When I have a match, I wake up a little nervous, but then I think that I prepared myself for this and whatever happens, happens,” says Evelyn.
Evelyn was given an additional challenge, a short time ago she was nominated to be part of the Ecuadorian women's under-20 soccer team, so some weekends are dedicated to intense double-day training. Despite all her preparation load, Evelyn really likes school, especially math and English. Her next school year will begin at the study centre that the Club built within the sports complex for its members to receive personalized learning adapted to their schedules.
As a teenager and rural woman, Evelyn has faced many challenges during her development as a professional soccer player. “I always wanted to achieve a high place in soccer, so that they know that women achieve everything we set out to do and that nothing is exclusive to men or women,” says Evelyn. According to their perception, people do not believe in the capabilities of women in rural areas; she wants to change this reality by being an inspiration for other girls, who feel the impulse to pursue their dreams as she is doing now. "I would tell them to continue, to persevere because they are going to make it, not to give up because if they continue with that spirit of wanting to be where I am or further away, they should not give up", encouraging words for those who want to follow in her footsteps in this discipline.
She sheds a tear when thinking about her mom, how proud she is to see her there and how happy she feels to fulfil her dreams and that this implies a better tomorrow for her family. Evelyn hopes to play professionally at the international level. "I'm not afraid to play with older girls or boys, because I've been practising it since I was very young: they ought to be afraid of me," she jokes when interviewed by the media. Despite the challenges she faced to get to where she is now, Evelyn is not satisfied and continues dreaming of going further.