Exactly one year ago, I signed off an article on my first visit to Cuba with the line: “Football is all you need to be happy in life.” Since then, I’ve realised that phrase to be truer than ever, albeit with one slight addition: “Football and values are all you need to be happy in life.”
The last day of our visit saw the final of the big tournament at the Stadio Nacional Pedro Marrero. At the end of the game, one of the winning side’s players celebrated slightly too exuberantly in front of one of the opposing team. On seeing this, and mindful of the Inter Campus Charter of Values, which sets out the importance of fair play, loyalty and respect, technical supervisor Alberto and I decided to intervene.
The youngsters listened to us and quickly understood our point, shaking hands. With that gesture, they’d both won the real tournament. It was the biggest victory, and had it not happened my week in Cuba would not have been the same.
Our party was bigger than usual, with Alberto, Christian, Eligio, Giovanni, Maria and Giulia all accompanying me to Cuba. For us – and for the local kids and instructors – the days flew by. I found the experience of returning to the island and to the capital, Havana, to be a profound one.
Once again, the rapport with the local trainers and instructors was enriching and full. All of them hold university qualifications and are extremely knowledgeable in the educational and technical aspects of football. Indeed, the standard of the theoretical sessions was very high (as was participation from the floor), with in-depth segments on motor and technical issues, cognitive elements and the more general characteristics that link children the world over: passion, collaboration, motivation, empathy, altruism and love for the game of football.
Though a total of 70 children were in attendance at the Stadio Pedro Marrero, that figure represents just a portion of the youngsters involved in the project in Cuba. Seeing them, I was reminded once again of how sport has an incredible capacity for bringing people together. There was a wide variety of athletes – not just footballers – which made our sessions more diverse, more involving.
Through sport, and through Inter Campus, young Cubans are gaining an identity and growing as human beings. Sport is part of their lives, something that allows them to pursue the dreams that their day-to-day realities often obscure. And that’s why football and values are all you need to be happy in life.
Thank you all!
Silvio Guareschi, Inter Campus instructor