I have just got back from an incredible trip around the Barrios of Caracas with some of my colleagues from Inter Campus, which I am very proud to be a part of.
We went to take a look at the most recent Inter Campus set up and to meet with various people with the aim of enlarging our project to help children in Venezuela – a country with severe economic problems (despite being one of the biggest oil producers), where delinquency reigns and the disparity between the very few rich and the vast majority of the population living in poverty is all too evident.
Upon arrival we were greeted by our obliging representative Luis Merola, who led us through the teeming traffic (petrol costs just €0.06 a litre) to the Inter Campus kids in one of the most dangerous quarters of Caracas, La Dolorita. There we spent an intense and fun-filled morning playing football and organising mini-tournaments. All of a sudden we were interrupted by five gun shots not far from us… we all paused for a rather long moment before everyone started running around again (they say you should start to worry when you hear more than 15 shots). With a postcard in hand and their “zapatos” (shoes) with my autograph on their feet, the children waved us goodbye, delighted to have spent those few hours in our company.
We stopped off at the Sant’Isidro Barrio – a few brick houses and some tin huts where most of the children I met today live. On one side there is a small concrete pitch and on the other a disused petrol pump that has been turned into an open-air dumping ground. We plan to replace that dumping ground with a real football pitch with artificial turf: a dream that the kids drew on large coloured sheets.
Mario, our coach and technical representative as well as being a father of three kids, welcomed us into his home, and the dignity of this young man was in stark contrast to the poverty and degradation that surrounded us.
With these images in our heads we set off again for another camp. Along the way our driver had to pay some “insurance money” to a man pretending to be a beggar (with a mobile phone in hand to let his accomplices know); no doubt our journey would have come to an end just a bit further ahead if we hadn’t paid.
Finally we reached the Don Bosco sports centre in Caracas where children from local teams and Inter Campus kids were training; they seemed extremely proud to be seen in my company. After training we immortalised the day with a group photo.
That evening we were invited to the Centro Italo Venezuelano – set up in the 1950s by the many Italian immigrants at the time and now with almost 30,000 members – to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification and the first year of Inter Campus Venezuela.
Of the many people actively involved or supportive of our project, we must say a special thank you to the president of the Centro Italo Venezuelano, Mario Chiavaroli, and the Italian consul general Giovanni Davoli, for their invaluable help.
I was able to experience the special atmosphere of a true Inter Campus, as we strengthened its foundations to give these children concrete hope and the joy of playing football. Incredibly they all know about Inter and now they are real Nerazzurri fans, thanks to generosity of our president and of our club.
Bye for now: until the next trip with Inter Campus!