Two sisters from Scarborough will be taking the field together on Friday at the women’s World Cup qualifying tournament in Mexico.
They just won’t be wearing the red-and-white of team Canada.
Kayla and Briana De Souza play for Guyana, the nation of their grandfather’s birth. The South American country started up its women’s soccer program less than two years ago, and both girls have been on the team, nicknamed the Lady Jags, since its inception.
When the chance arose for the sisters to play soccer at an international level, it was one they couldn’t pass up.
“It was just an in-the-moment decision,” 20-year-old Kayla told the Toronto Observer. “I thought, ‘this is an opportunity that doesn’t come about very often, and there are a lot of girls who would like to be in my position, so try it and see how things go.’”
While they admit to not knowing much about Guyana before playing for the country – Kayla said she identified more with the Italian culture of her mother’s side of the family – that’s now changed.
“I’ve learned so much more about the country and culture than when I was growing up and I enjoy going back every single time and playing in front of all the fans,” she said.
Briana, who also plays for Carleton University, agrees.
“Playing for Guyana has taught me a lot about my heritage and has really made me appreciate where I’m from,” said the 19-year-old. “There are still many things I can learn about Guyana and see there but I am proud to say I am Guyanese.”
The Lady Jags have progressed far in the year-and-a-half the program has been around. In July, they defeated Cuba for a spot in the Gold Cup. The top two countries in the tournament will earn an automatic berth in next year’s World Cup in Germany.
Guyana has a tough road ahead, though, as Canada and the United States are the heavy favourites to nab those two World Cup spots. But even if the tiny nation fails to advance to the world’s biggest stage, the experience will help the program in the future.
“I’m hoping we just grow from this year, because we’ve never made it this far,” Kayla says. “And this will be my first time playing against girls of this caliber at such a high-level tourney, so it’s going to be a learning experience.”
It will also be another opportunity for the sisters to play together, something they always enjoy.
“I love playing with my sister,” Briana said. “We’ve played together since we were very young. We don’t take anything on the field personally, and she really helps to motivate me.”
Kayla even said she probably wouldn’t be on the team if her sister, who is an assistant captain, wasn’t right there with her.
“I don’t really picture myself playing internationally without her,” Kayla said. “She’s kind of like my go-to person on the field, and even when we’re roommates because we’re really close. It also brings us closer with our sister relationship.”