Larissa Hotra

Larissa Hotra (Survivor Corps in El Salvador): Larissa graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources in 2004. She worked at the nonprofit SafeHouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan as a legal advocate and as an environmental science educator to high school students. She then served as the Midwest campaign coordinator for Global Impact, a nonprofit that raises money for international humanitarian organizations. By night, she worked as the Political Affairs Editor for a Ukrainian Internet Newsletter, e-POSHTA. Throughout her time in Chicago she dabbled in everything that the city had to offer: producing a story for Chicago Public Radio on the Ukrainian diaspora; organizing and working with the Ukrainian diaspora through PLAST – a Ukrainian youth scouting; attending free cultural and musical events; practicing her Spanish language skills in Latino immigrant neighborhoods; and trying to play soccer on every piece of green space in the city. At the time of her fellowship, Larissa was in the first year of a Master’s program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

El Futbal es Asi-That’s Life

17 Jun

“Ver es Creer”: Seeing is Believing

The sun was beating down on us when we got off the bus in front of the women’s jail in the Department of Ilopango. I took off my hat to fan myself, stunned at the throngs of people lined up at 9:00 a.m. for Sunday visitation hours. While I waited for Don Jesus, Director of LSN-ES, to take me to the Amputee Soccer practice half a mile away, the men, women, and families stood in lines snaked around the metal fence, waiting patiently to catch a glimpse of their loved ones. Apparently, this is a routine Sunday morning at the jail. While some families are attending church or relaxing at home with their families, other families have gotten up early to secure a good place in line. Most people are cradling packages, likely filled with homemade tortillas and sweet breads. I was tempted to take a photo, to document the jail that housed 300-400 women only 30 minutes outside the capital’s center, but I hesitated. It just didn’t seem right to document this sober Sunday routine.

Don Jesus arrived a few minutes later and we headed towards the Air Force base, where the El Salvador Amputee team practices most Sundays under the scorching ball in the atmosphere. Although an obsessive futbal fan myself, I admittedly didn’t envy the players practicing at high noon. An amputee himself, Don Jesus maneuvers through traffic like a skier skiing slalom. I always seem to be clutching whatever is next to me for my dear sweet life when riding in a moving vehicle here in El Sal. And then I look over, realizing that Don Jesus has no legs. And he’s driving. And I don’t know how he’s braking.


I make a mental note to remind myself to ask him how he was using the brakes. I know, of course, that cars have special features to accommodate people with disabilities. But here in El Sal, where each driver acts like he/she is competing in the Indy 500, I hold high my expectations that each time we park safely I will live to see another day.

To the game, however, I came with no expectations. I have never seen an amputee futbal game before, and I left the game believing that anything is possible.

The Salvadoran Association of Amputee Football team consists of approximately 30 players—former guerrillas, soldiers, and civilians of El Salvador’s bloody civil war. Guanacos, (slang for El Salvadorans), who formerly fought each other with machetes and machine guns all over the country were instead going to compete for victory on the futbal field, this time with a pair of specialty crutches and a single fubal. It is a post-war reunion, of sorts, on the cancha (futbal field) to

As I see it, the Guanacos on the field had three major things in common: a violent past, amputations, and a timeless love for futbol, El Salvador’s favorite national pastime.

Here is a video I made Sunday on the ‘art of stretching’:

As I tried to follow the game, I realized that some of the rules
of the game are different. I will divulge a few…

Rule 1: In order to be on the team, you must be an amputee.
Rule 2: Outfielders may have two hands but only one foot.
Rule 3: Goalies may have two legs, but only one hand.
Rule 4: Tripping a player or his maletas (crutches) with your own maletas is a foul.
Rule 5: The game is played on metal crutches (wooden crutches are dangerous, due to splinters, etc.). According to the American Amputee Soccer Association website,, forearm crutches are the international standard.
Rule 6: Prostheses are not allowed on the field
Rule 7: Throw-ins are replaces by kick-ins.
Other Rules: Penalty kicks, and other rules apply as usual. Unfortunately, neither women with disabilities nor players missing both arms were playing on the team.

The Team is struggling
Formerly, LSN-ES has helped the El Salvadoran team to acquire uniforms and equipment, as well as travel to competitions. El Salvador is part of the World Amputee Football Federation (WAFF),, and Jesus Martinez, LSN Director, is noted as the contact for the WAFF contact list. However, as I found out from Señor Martinez on Sunday, the Salvadoran Association of Amputee Football team needs help. Although they continue to practice regularly, they are not able to travel to international and some national competitions, such as WAFF, due to lack of funding. They are also in need of promotion, as there isn’t much publicity surrounding the team.

If anyone knows of an organization that supports people with disabilities and might be able to offer help (financially or with equipment), please let me know. It would be great to set this team up with one in the States–like a Sister-Cities initiative, but instead a “Soccer- Cities” initiative….

Posted By Larissa Hotra

Posted Jun 17th, 2008


  • Margot

    June 20, 2008


    I really liked your video for this post, it was really interesting to have some of those visuals. Do the games for the amputee league get a lot of publicity? Also, what is the general age-range of players, are younger people encouraged to play as well?

  • Larissa

    June 20, 2008


    The games do not get much publicity, in fact. That is one of the issues that the team is trying to mobilize: promotion. More publicity will help the team gain greater visibility and create more awareness of disability issues in El Salvador. Granting the team funding to travel to other countries to compete will also promote more disability awareness in El Salvador.

    The general age range of the players is 30 and up (although the goalie in the video, the one stretching with one arm, is 28). He is a youngster, compared to the others. I don’t know if younger players are encouraged to play or not…that’s an interesting question. We do work with child amputees as well, but I don’t personally know what sports activities are available for them…I’ll check into it!

  • Kelly

    June 22, 2008


    WOW! This is amazing…I love that this way of playing futbol celebrates amputees-no prostethic pieces allowed!

    I am totally amazed with these athletes! It should send a message to all of us to appreciate our bodies and use them to the fullest!

  • USA Goalkeeper

    June 24, 2008



    Please check your email. Link to image of El Slavador postage stamp from a few years ago featuring an amputee soccer player:

    I never played against El Salvador, but some of the other guys on the team did. They said El Salvador was always a tough, tough opponent.

  • Larissa

    June 26, 2008


    The link to the El Salvador Postage Stamp is quite interesting. Thank you for posting it. Can you give me more information about it, specifically the context of it? I’m also very curious for which USA team you play on that has played El Salvador?

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