The history of the World Cups in drawings by Miguel Rep 3:14
(CNN Spanish) --
(CNN Spanish) --
Can you imagine being able to travel to all the FIFA World Cups for life and with all expenses paid?
Well, it is not just an idea or a dream for many fans of the king of sports, but since 1998 it has been a reality for a lucky woman.
This is the case of María del Jesús Pinargote, a 65-year-old Ecuadorian who was born in the parish of Canuto in the coastal province of Manabí.
Since 1998, she has been able to travel to seven consecutive World Cups thanks to a prize awarded "for life" to attend the World Cup every four years with a companion.
Who are the players who have played the most games in World Cups and who has participated in the most?
It is a fortune that surely many soccer fans would like to enjoy every four years to see their favorite teams dispute the world title in the front row.
How did María del Jesús manage to obtain this award?
More than 24 years ago, María del Jesús Pinargote did not imagine that she would win an award that would allow her to enjoy for life the most important festival in world football every four years.
A Coca-Cola bottle cap and a coupon deposited in an amphora with her data was all she needed to enter and win.
World Cup Japan 2002 when Ecuador qualified for the first time to a World Cup.
“The glass cola was bought, the lid came and they gave us a glass, one exchanged the glass and there they gave a coupon;
I filled out six coupons because I collected the six glasses with different designs and deposited them in the amphora”.
This is how Pinargote describes to CNN that moment that gave him luck.
He remembers that June 14, 1998 was the day he received a call from a person who informed him that he had won.
Her first reaction was disbelief and she had to ask her husband to find out more about the data they provided.
“They told me that I had been favored with the lifetime trip award to the World Cups;
I did not think.
Then I sent my husband to investigate what he was like and he told me: 'you know you won the trip to the world championships for life', and he was happy, me too;
we were jumping for joy and everything," Pinargote told CNN.
Once her husband confirmed that María del Jesús had indeed won the prize, she says that her family celebrated and began preparations to travel to her first World Cup.
"It was a very nice experience.
We were all happy;
we had a very nice time
It was an unforgettable experience”, says Pinargote.
The journey through seven consecutive World Cups
María del Jesús Pinargote confesses that she had never traveled outside of Ecuador or been on a plane in her life until 1998 arrived and she traveled to her first World Cup in France and then, consecutively, she has gone to the World Cups in Japan , Germany, South Africa, Brazil, Russia, and a few days ago he was in Qatar supporting the Ecuadorian team in their fourth participation in a FIFA World Cup.
A possibility that very few can achieve.
“There is more emotion when the national team qualifies, but it is still nice to be in a stadium.
It's nice to see the flag in another country, our Ecuadorian flag, ”she emphasizes.
On each trip Pinargote can take a lucky companion.
She traveled to three World Cups with her husband who died a few years ago, to two World Cups she went with a cousin, and to another two with her sister-in-law Mercedes Pinargote.
Maria with her husband.
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was the last world cup she was able to travel to with him.
Mercedes shows CNN a photo album with various memories of the 2002 World Cup when "Jesusita", as she affectionately calls her, invited her to live a World Cup adventure that she claims to remember with nostalgia, affection and emotion.
In addition, it was the first time that Ecuador qualified for a soccer world cup, so feelings multiplied, she assures her.
“People from other countries supported us;
one feels happy, content, excited.
The experience of these two World Cups that thanks to my sister-in-law has been able to take me, has been beautiful, beautiful.
I am very grateful to God and to her for this opportunity”, says Mercedes with teary eyes.
Two people are the only winners of this award in Latin America
The multinational Coca-Cola in Ecuador told CNN that María del Jesús Pinargote and another person in Peru were the only two winners in all of Latin America in 1998 of the prize to travel for life to the World Cups with everything paid for and with a companion.
A prize awarded at random that has allowed this Ecuadorian woman to live the passion of soccer seven times in different destinations and carrying the Ecuadorian flag with great pride.
Who will be the next companion of María del Jesús?
For María del Jesús Pinargote, each World Cup trip has been a way to discover other cultures and technological advances in sports settings.
She hopes that Ecuador will qualify again in 2026 and that the team will play in Mexico, a country that she says she wants to know for its culture.
Her sister-in-law Mercedes says that Pinargote does not usually reveal the name of her companion easily and that several of her nephews have asked her to take them.
World Cup Japan 2002 when Ecuador faced Mexico in the group stage.
“She always keeps it quiet;
she doesn't say anything;
she has us in suspense, even when she says 'I'm going with you'”.
Her relatives will have to wait the next few years to find out who will travel with her to the 2026 World Cup.
In addition to the experiences of traveling to all the World Cups since 1998, María del Jesús brings souvenirs from each country to give away and to keep personally.
A way to take a little bit of each world for posterity.
From Qatar, she says that she returned admired from the organization of the World Cup and that, although the Ecuadorian soccer team could not qualify for the round of 16, she considers that it played a great role and that it had the support of many Ecuadorians.
Pinargote assures that in this World Cup he was able to see more Ecuadorians than usual in the streets of a country hosting the World Cup and considers that carrying the Ecuadorian flag was a true pride and an experience that will continue to add to his life.