Natalia Guitler, the woman who beat Neymar, impressed Ronaldinho in footvolley
As of today, footvolley is not a sport that is played by legions of players around the world. That said, the following and practice of the offshoot of soccer that was born on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro has grown significantly over the past few years, and it continues to grow today.
Athletes might dedicate their careers to becoming professionals and pursue a variance of the sport as a means of sustenance. Such is the case for Natalia Guitler, one of the foremost Brazilian footvolley players in the world.
In an interview with ESPN Brazil, the Rio native recounted the story of how she came to begin practicing the sport and spoke about the road she took to become a professional.
"I started playing when I was around 10 years old. Besides that, I was a professional tennis player for five years and lived in Argentina playing professionally. I was in the top 450 in the world at 22," Guitler said.
"But before tennis, even though I was really young, I played soccer as well. So it was a mix of things that ended up bringing me to play soccer. And today I'm still playing professionally."
In the past few months, Natalia has gained fame by showing her skills in footvolley matches and table soccer matches against football stars such as Neymar, Nene and even Ronaldinho.
Natalia spoke about her relationship with these superstars. "It's really great, really gratifying. To have their respect -- they want to play with me," she said.
"They respect me a lot and respect my job. Especially for a woman, that's really cool. They admire me for being a woman who's so good."
As for the championships and if it is possible to live on soccer alone, Natalia analyzed how footvolley is doing in Brazil and in the world.
"People have seen the women playing and always improving, and that contributes a lot to the growth of the sport," she said. "In Brazil, what's happened is that the sport has grown considerably. In fact, there are a few South American competitions for women."
At the end of 2018, Natalia finished in fourth place in a table football tournament held in France. In all, the competition had only three women out of 42 total participants. Next to her partner, the Brazilian says that she broke the "machismo" of her European opponents by demonstrating her potential and that her male competitors invited her to practice with them.
"By the end of the tournament, everyone respected me," she said. "At the beginning, many of them wouldn't even say hello to me, but by the end, they were calling me to talk and even ask me to train with them. It was a sort of breaking of a taboo."
In Brazil, one way Natalia figured to promote and teach footvolley is in clinics. Along with her partner, Bianca, she holds demonstrations on weekends.
"In the last few [clinics], we've had more men than women. The men are also inspired by us. And they leave here very satisfied. This taboo is now broken, and I'm happy to have contributed to that."