Hot Chile aims for long-term Touch success
Aug. 28, 2020 @ 11:00 UTC
The game of Touch in Chile is in good hands with Dr Ximena Raimann leading the way on and off the field.
Ximena Raimann is one of the most inspiring people in the world of Touch. She has been the President of the Chilean Touch Association since 2004, having started her impressive Touch career three short years earlier.
Impressively, Ximena represented Chile, a South American country with a population of 19 million people, at the last World Cup in Malaysia, in the Mixed 30 competition. At the age of 55! “I play touch, that’s the reason I look young, “said Ximena, when she spoke to Adam Collins for a Chilean episode of Set of Six.
Ximena has three sons who currently represent Chile and she plays Touch with them in her hometown of Santiago, the capital city of Chile. This certainly demonstrates the capacity of Touch to bring family members and people of all ages and genders, together.
The amazing Ximena is also a Doctor of Paediatrics at a private hospital in Santiago. She has experienced first-hand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are not doing well in Chile, especially in Santiago,” she disclosed to Adam when he asked about the current situation in Chile. The Centre for Disease Control in the USA still classifies Chile as a high-risk country to visit due to COVID-19.
With such a severe outbreak in Chile, not much Touch has been played this winter. However, the development of Touch, in the largest copper producing country in the world, will rebound quickly once a more normal situation returns. This will be due, in large part, to the dedication of a remarkable couple, Antonia Livingstone and Sergio Miranda. They were both members of the Chile Mixed 30 team in Malaysia last year. They basically have taken on the task of developing touch in Chile. As well as being national players, they also coach the national teams and are referees as well! “We are taking touch to everywhere that we can”, said Antonia.
A major challenge is trying to establish Touch outside of Santiago in what Antonia describes as “A very long country”. Chile is 4270 kilometres in length from north to south. This makes it longer than Australia, which measures 3860 kilometres from north to south. This presents logistical and travel cost issues in the quest to spread Touch beyond the capital.
The absolute dominance of Soccer as the national Sport of Chile, the southernmost country in South America, is another challenge. The Chilean national soccer team is a world force in the round ball game.
Soccer may dominate, but as Antonia Livingstone says, “Touch is one of the sports you can play in schools”, in Santiago. Sergio puts the acceptance of Touch in schools as being due to the sport: “Being very inclusive, it is mixed and has low contact." The availability of Touch as a sport option in schools is already paying dividends, with players who have come through the school system already representing Chile at the national level.
A land far far away
Chile is the only South American nation which is a Federation of International Touch (FIT) member. Consequently, access to regular international competition is a problem. As Ximena said, “Everyone invites us to play but the problem is the plane tickets are very expensive for us because we are far away from everywhere”. Chilean Touch, therefore, concentrates on participating in the big tournaments, out of financial necessity.
Given these challenges, as well as the small number of players, Ximena, Antonia and Sergio have done a remarkable job. Chile progressed from 16th place at the 2015 World Cup in the Open Mixed, to finish 7th at Malaysia 2019. The Mixed 30 team also had a famous draw with Euro champions Ireland in Malaysia, much to Sergio’s delight. Chile Touch were planning on taking a record four teams to the now cancelled 2020 Euro Championships.
Progress and potential
The unbridled enthusiasm of the Touch leadership group will see Touch in Chile progress. Many good people in the Touch world are also helping to improve coaching and refereeing in Chile which is so important for emerging nations. The potential for even greater success at the 2023 World Cup is there. Let’s hope these inspirational Chilean Touch stalwarts are back in international competition very soon.