How Sport Brings People Together: Fernando’s Story

 In News

Fernando Vilchez Aguilar grew up playing football with people from all over the world, learning not only how sport brings people together but why it’s more important than ever before.

I’m 23, and I’ve always lived in the south of Spain. My family and my neighbours are working-class, and believe me, Spain has changed radically in the past 10 to 15 years. I want to tell you about that change and what it involved, but don’t worry – I’ll do it by talking about football.

At school, I had friends from all over the world, especially South America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Morocco. We all got on well, for the most part. There were always arguments between teenagers but never because of nationality. In fact, I had a lot fun when playing football with all my friends at the school pitch. There, we gathered ‘the South American team’, ‘the sub-Saharan team’, ‘the Moroccan team’ and ‘the Spanish team’.

Those were our teams every single day. Obviously, I played for the Spanish team, usually as defence. However, some days these ‘regional teams’ weren’t able to gather all their players. For example, I remember that the Moroccan team couldn’t gather all its players during Ramadan because they preferred to rest at home or simply not play those days.

When that happened, those who had come but couldn’t gather the rest of their team were taken into another ‘regional team’. So we organised mixed teams, and then played football.

That is multiculturalism. That is living in peace and creating a better society through football and sport in general. That is how sport brings people together. We made strong friendships using that tool: sport. All we needed was somebody’s football and our energy.

Nowadays, however, that is over – or at least, it has become less common. Today, Spanish families as well as foreigners ones are leaving my country, not because they want to, but because they are being forced to. (Who is to blame? That will be discussed in my next post).

Last summer, I went abroad to Malta for an internship. And do you know what? In the building I lived in was a Spanish family! With children! That was really touching for me, because I was used to seeing foreign families in my country, not Spanish ones abroad.

In that moment, I remembered my childhood. I wondered about my South American, sub-Saharan and Moroccan friends living back in their countries. I remembered those football matches and the people who passed through my life and are now living so far from Spain. I hope they too remember their time in Spain – just like I hope my Spanish neighbours were accepted in Malta and got the chance to play football in a mixed team.

Article submitted by Fernando Vilchez Aguilar, a young Spanish biologist who lives in the south of Spain and is interested in travel, nature, other cultures and sport. He is currently training at an ecotourism company.

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