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Gaming community helps Uruguayan deal with family tragedy

Willams Freire Mendez has been through huge trauma over recent months, but esports have offered solace and support

Uruguay’s Willams Freire Mendez
Uruguay’s Willams Freire Mendez. Photo: Ben Queenborough/GEF

Uruguay’s Willams Freire Mendez experienced unimaginable tragedy four months ago, losing his young child. “My baby was just a month old and had heart problems,” he said. “The baby had surgery but didn’t make it. It was so difficult and distressing – I think about it all the time.”

Given his grief, it is amazing that Freire Mendez has made it to Istanbul, but the 33-year-old, who competes in eFootball™ 2023, credits esports with helping his mental health in the wake of what happened.

“I got invited to Paraguay for the South American Games (South American Esports Championships, held alongside) and got the silver medal over there, and that was the first time I’d played after the distress,” he said.

“Esports is a way to forget all the bad things that happened to me, and when I am playing I can forget everything, and feel OK.

“GEF provided me with an opportunity to represent Uruguay, and that has given me only happy memories. For a second it let me forget feeling sad all the time, and be the ‘old’ me. I am really grateful for what esports can bring – it can give you peace of mind.”

Freire Mendez, who has been gaming professionally since 2015, is impressed by the GEG. “It’s a huge venue, it is outstanding,” he said.

“I always participated in tournaments in Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, but this is the first time I’ve gone outside the Americas for a tournament. I feel very proud.

“I beat India and then Georgia, who I think is one of the best players in the world. That was a really hard match, and I was so happy to beat him. Then I beat Luxembourg. I think I read my opponents well and react well, that is my key skill – I can adapt my game.”

Following defeat by Iran in the semifinals, Freire Mendez took on Türkiye in the bronze-medal match. The Uruguayan won 2-0 (in games), grabbing third place.

The eFootballer’s experience in Istanbul has been rich and #worldconnected. “I have made lots of friends in this special environment,” he said. “I have played against lots of these players before online, and to be able to greet them in person is special.

“We can share time and be together far from home, exchanging cultures. That is a really rich experience and it helps me grow as a person.”

It is making his friends and family back home proud, too. “Everyone is happy, they know it is a way for me to release my mind. I want to say hi to everyone in Uruguay and to my club, Peñarol, who are really supporting me.”



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