Wednesday 08 March 2023, 03:00

Sabrina Suarez: Training is key to turning obstacles into opportunities

  • Suarez is first woman to hold post of deputy secretary general of the Venezuelan Football Association

  • Took part in FIFA’s Women in Football Leadership Programme in 2022

  • “Training is vital to working in sports administration,” she tells

Football has been a part of Sabrina Suarez’s life for as long as she can remember, since she started watching her three older brothers kicking a ball around. It was not long before they called her in to make it 2v2, and by the time she was 12 she was playing for a local team. Though she was later faced with obstacles that ultimately prevented her from fulfilling her dream of becoming a footballer, she turned them into opportunities and stayed in the sport she loves with a passion. The first of those obstacles presented itself in 2001, when, at the age of 14, she suffered an ankle injury while taking part in a national youth team camp. “I didn’t give up football – I just started playing FIFA instead,” the now deputy secretary general of the Venezuelan Football Association (FVF) joked in an interview with “That’s when I started taking an interest in Esports,” added Suarez, who is also the FVF’s representative to FIFA’s Esports programme.

Sabrina Suárez, Deputy Secretary General of the Venezuelan Football Federation

She suffered yet another injury setback in 2013, three years after graduating in law. “I’d started playing again in a regional league and tore my cruciate ligaments. That’s when I realised that my future in football lay off the pitch,” she recalled with typical good humour. While she recovered from the injury, she coached the last team she played for, Independiente Las Mercedes, in her home town of Barquisimeto. “It wasn’t my calling though,” she explained. Her future began to take shape in 2016, when she started working in the legal department at Deportivo Lara. “In 2018, I graduated in public accounting and did a thesis on the training of young female players, focusing on the situation at that time and identifying aspects to do with administrative management. The end product was a training management programme.” She left the club that year to become the general manager of a lower league. “I ran it on an administrative, communication and marketing level, developing and providing a focal point for football in the central west region of Venezuela. I stayed there until June 2021, when the new management team at the FVF called me in.”

Third edition of Women in Football Leadership Programme kicks off

Development and training

Suarez is the first women to hold her position at the FVF and has continued her training since taking up the job, participating in FIFA’s Women in Football Leadership Programme in 2022. “It was a turning point for me, because now I’ve got a better perspective and vision of what it means to occupy a position like that in the sports world,” she said. “And that’s not just because of all the things I experienced during the programme, but also because it allowed me to find out more about myself in terms of having a leadership role. I’ve tried since then to bring that knowledge and information to the seminars and programmes that the national association runs so that other women can see sports administration as an alternative.” The growth of women’s football in the country is another key factor, as Suarez explained: “More and more young girls and women are aspiring to be footballers, just as I did, and the circumstances are more favourable now. Since the pandemic, for example, we’ve organised tournaments that have given the sport a higher profile, with matches in our league even being streamed on the FIFA platform FIFA+. There are more and more academy clubs too.”

Sabrina Suárez, Deputy Secretary General of the Venezuelan Football Federation

The prospects are also good for the country’s national teams, as Suarez went on to say: “Our coach, Pamela Conti, is giving more opportunities to home-based players, making the most of the FIFA windows to give them a chance and more exposure. Our national talent identification work also gives us information on how things are shaping up in each region.” Suarez also spoke of the importance of Venezuelan match officials being appointed to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™. “We didn’t qualify but the country will have two women at the biggest tournament there is. It’s a sign too of how the sport’s developing, that lots of things are being done properly.” So what does she want to see for the future? “I want these paths towards the professionalisation of football on the pitch to also be reflected in the professionalisation of the administrative side of things. There are an increasing number of women who feel that there could be a career and a place for them there. It’s not easy, but training is vital to working in sports administration. If you study, train yourself up and have the character and confidence, you can do it.”