Twin Parakeets: Espanyol's curious tale of four sisters
The Del Estal and Garrote twins, all on the books at Espanyol, are a unique sight in football. And they may soon be joined by another set, the Ortiz sisters.
Espanyol has always been considered a family club. Eli and Sara del Estal and Nuria and Pilar Garrote have taken that to a different level.
The two pairs of twins play for Espanyol Féminas in the Liga Iberdrola, but in the case of the Del Estal sisters, football has only recently been their vocation. “Our dad likes football but we’d never played. Until we went to watch a match between Reocín and Barcelona, and we fell in love with it,” says Eli.
“We thought maybe we could play as well, and we were right,” adds Sara.
Both were previous promising athletes, with Eli winning silver in the Spanish junior championships in the 400m hurdles. “I was pushing my body to the limit. I was going to university, training for athletics and then playing football, five hours a day. So I ended up falling behind in some of my studies,” Eli says.
The Garrote sisters have spent a lot more time on the ball. As Nuria explains: "We started out at the age of four with the local youth team, Lloreda.” From there to Barcelona’s five a side team, on to Sant Gabriel and then to Barcelona Féminas, playing 11 against 11, when they were 12.
Being identical twins is not without its problems, but it sometimes works to the Garrote’s advantage as well: “In a tournament, the coach put me in defence and Nuria in midfield by mistake,” says Pilar.
“I didn’t like playing at the back at that time, so we kept our mouths shut,” adds Nuria.
"Referees have a bad time of it"
It also lends an air of sisterly competition to their vocation. “When we were at Racing we were both playing as strikers, so we had a competition to see who could score the most goals. The referees had a bad time of it; they were always confusing us and awarding goals to the wrong one, even when we showed them our shirt numbers.”
Incredibly, the trail blazed by the Del Estal and Garrote sisters could soon be joined by another set of identical twins, who are currently in the junior side: Sandra and Mireia Ortiz.