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In this episode of “Explore With Swim” for 2022, SI Swimsuit model Natalie Mariduena dives into the world of sports in Belize. She not only learns about the ancient Mayan sport of Potapuk, but she also gets to attend soccer practice with that country’s national women’s team.
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The episode kicks off with Mariduena meeting Felicita Cantun, the Potapuk team’s manager. Cantun talks about the connection that Potapuk has to her Mayan heritage and the meaning behind the game to Mariduena. “If we had a good crop, we offered this game,” Cantun says. “If there is a sickness, like what is going around now, we pray, asking for healing. If there is a dispute among tribes this game is played to settle the dispute. There are many objectives to why this game is played.”
Cantun explains how she had always wanted to bring this ancient game back to be played again. “I am a cultural activist. Anything that has to do with my culture, I am in,” she says. “This was a dream, a vision that I had. And in 2015 the universe conspired with me and here we are.” Mariduena watches the players prepping for the game, which includes applying unique body paint onto their bodies to identify who is on which team.
Mariduena also got a little body paint herself and hit the court to try out the signature way of moving the ball around. You can see elements of soccer, volleyball and basketball in Potapuk, however, the players are only allowed to hit the ball with their hips.
After learning about Potapuk, it was time for Mariduena to head over to meet the Belize Women's National Soccer Team. She connects with Phillip Marin, the team’s technical development director. The coach begins by explaining their strategies and then invites Mariduena to join the team in practice.
Having played varsity soccer in college, Mariduena was pumped to get out onto the field. “I would love to come and play and put on the whole uniform–that would be really fun,” she says.
After practicing some drills, Mariduena joins the players in a scrimmage and scores a goal. She also gets some great feedback from Marin. “You are a quick learner, I like the way that you move with the ball,” he tells her after the match.