Renowned Guatemalan soccer player, Maria Fernanda Rossell, is making an impact on and off the pitch as a coach at Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023. Rossell, better known as Mafer in the soccer community, transferred her skills and knowledge of playing to coaching a few years ago when she started to coach both men’s and women’s professional soccer in Guatemala. In 2022, she had the opportunity to be a coach at the Unified Cup in Detroit, Michigan. Rossell’s first-time Special Olympics coaching experience led to the Guatemalan women’s 7-a-side soccer team winning the Unified Cup and she was also awarded best coaching award for the event.
On 24 June at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023, Rossell continued her successful streak and led the Special Olympics Guatemala women’s futsal team to victory as they took the gold over Special Olympics Costa Rica. The teams were tied 1-1 at the end of the second half, but due to goal differential, Guatemala earned the win. After the match, Rossell took time to reflect on her team’s performance.
“This means a lot. We have been working for this moment since last year in Detroit and we never stopped, which I think is key to our success. Our Unified Team has had to learn from each other and uphold the values of Special Olympics and mix that with sport. The women on the team, the way they behave and act on and off the field, is the glue on keeping everyone together and what helped us win this tournament.”
The Unified Cup was the first experience Rossell had working with people with intellectual and physical disabilities and Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 is only her second experience, and her track record shows how comfortable she has settled into her role. She learned on the go how to navigate and manage her team to help them work together and see results on and off the field. Rossell’s Unified Team has been an example for Special Olympics and to other teams and coaches, within and outside of the movement, of all the hard work it takes to compete at the World Games level.
Rossell commented on her experience so far, "I have felt very happy and committed to be part of this institution. I have been able to touch another side that I didn't know about myself as a coach and I have been able to learn a lot about disability. I have also met wonderful people who have changed my life and my main goal is also to be able to change lives."