Kickingball, a hybrid of soccer and baseball, is experiencing a surge in popularity among Venezuelan refugees around the world, especially in Spain, Argentina and the United States.

The sport is played exclusively by women in Venezuela and was introduced to the country by a teacher in 1965 as a variation of the two sports, the game is usually played on a softball diamond field and uses three bases.

Many refugees forced to flee the once-thriving democracy turned to the sport after autocratic President Nicolás Maduro seized power and plunged the country into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2014 fueled by a fall in global oil prices.

Venezuelan refugee Marián de Lima arrived in Madrid six years ago and contacted the city’s soccer team via Facebook.

She said participating in the sport has given her a safety net far from home: “Most of the members have always been there to support you, to help you with whatever you need. They’re always available and it’s been a help to be calmer and not feel alone outside a country that is not your own, she tells Euronews.

Adriana Ferrer is president of the local team, the Madrid Panthers, and told Euronews reporter Carlos Marlasca: “the men, the boys, played basketball and soccer and the girls played kickball because it was introduced that way because it was played on oil rigs.”

Gradually, more and more women of other nationalities take up the kickball, so it also serves as a good tool for integration. The Madrid Panthers are preparing for the championships and it is the first time for many of them.

“We share values ​​like respect, communication, friendship and teamwork. It’s more feminine and better understood from woman to woman,” said one of the players, Oriana Castro.

Ferrer said the team wants more spaces where kickball can be played to help these women better integrate into society.