Antanimora: Football In The Prison
Friday, August 31st, It was one of the most incredible football experiences of my life. I got the invitation to help the children’s corrective service of Antanimora alongside Grandir Alignment (Growing up with dignity) an organisation that tries to include, educate and reinstate boys back into society.
Many of them are there because of their parents’ abandonment because they do not have a home or means to support them, they now live in a place with such precarious conditions that makes this jail one of the worst in the world! I did not hesitate to accept! The days leading up when they asked for my authorisation through my passport and organisation, I started to put myself in context, I had already visited the market with young children and a school with 79 boys divided into four groups.
My confidence was sky high until I summoned to the building where the organisers were waiting for me to talk about what I could do with the context and with the tools available. Inside I thought!”Playing football; what else?”But Arturo, he did well to meet me and with a pencil in hand gave me details of what we were going to expect an encounter since our philosophy of travel has to do with testing us constantly! Creativity and resolving power are fundamental to our growth in our method. I never thought I’d have such a sociocultural and football challenge so shocking in this 4 hours of the visit! Why so hard?
1. 109 guys.
2. Basketball court. (The dimension is so literal, that the lines are the walls of the cells)
3. Four balls
4. Four hours of activity.
5. 7 assistants.
As always PTA FOOTBALL wants to give a little more than to witness a group of boys kicking the ball, it occurred to me to plan a workout with different stations, strength, cardio, agility, technique, but I was also aware that I had to convince the group to work. Auturo, the coordinator/friend of this event, accepted the idea because of his love for football, but he warned me. “It’s great! I think when you see the space and the assistants, it will confirm your plan.” When we had lunch, I felt the vibes of when I used to play in classics matches as a professional player, we walked about 20 minutes, and when we got closer I remembered all the advice, the context, the guys as players, police officers and volunteers as field assistants,
“Marcos you will find difficult kids!”, “Marcos there is a kid who is depressed because his parents abandoned him”, “Marcos there is a guy who is not physically well, he doesn’t have his toes, only one hand, etc”
As I took my first steps in, I tried to eliminate all these voices and walk in with confidence!
I imagined walking into a full stadium, classics in Indonesia, Newells vs Rosario in Argentina and I said to myself: Come on Marcos, you know how to handle this!
Fate only gave me minutes, as we arrived at the basketball it was being used by women prisoners, so what was 4 hours now would be 3 hours or 2 hours and a half.
In this mini-meeting where I met the field assistants and gave the talk about how I thought about the training session and I realized that I was going to have to change the plan, to share the field with the 109 kids.
It was time to step on the court, a couple of shouts from a policeman and they all stood straight, marched like ducklings, an important silence and in that vibe I transformed myself into a guy looking into the eyes without doubting the players, seeking respect.
The presentation was dubbed into French and Malagasy.
” HELLO! I AM MARCOS FLORES FROM ARGENTINA, I PLAYED PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL FOR 15 YEAR IN COUNTRIES LIKE CHINA, AUSTRALIA, CHILE, INDONESIA, Etc.
AND TODAY I CAME TO VISIT YOU, TO SHOW THE DIFFERENCE THAT IS AMONG THE ATTITUDE OF AN AMATEUR TO THAT OF A PROFESSIONAL.
THE DIFFERENCE IS IN THE DESIRE, THE HEART AND THE INTENSITY IN THE MOVEMENTS! IN THEIR TRAINING!
I SAY IT ONCE, I DO NOT WANT HALF HEARTED TYPES, WE’RE GOING FOR EVERYTHING OR WE SIT ”
In the faces of the boys, I saw conviction! In the faces of one of my assistants, I saw distrust.
Then I decided to start the warm-up by leading the group of 100 Boys at the same time, knees up, heels up, lateral movements, jumps, squats and pep talks in Spanish, English and when I realized that the boys (the vast majority) were following My movements and repeating my words encouraged me to go further and improvise a Haka.
This moment will always stay with me! One of those moments where I would have loved that my eyes give me the opportunity to show them what I experienced, 100 more helpers were motivated, in their eyes there was fire, enjoy!
When I felt this, I changed the training and decided to train everyone at the same time, I put 4 rows of players at one end of the court and another 4 at the other end, facing each other! With my shoes and some sandals, we improvised cones and from the 7 helpers, I chose 4 at random, each one in charge of two rows.
We rotated the return variants and gave it so much energy and intensity that I went crazy! To the point that one of the “field assistants” caught my attention for his lack of enthusiasm, and without knowing, that the one I was addressing was the policeman who daily punishes the prisoners for misconduct. And I in Diego Simeone mode, I ask “Listen, throw him the shortest ball then the player returns a firm header, come on Brother!
When we finished the training, I thanked everyone for their respect and tolerance! One of the volunteers alongside Arturo told me what we had achieved together immediately!
I loved seeing the kids motivated, giving the best of themselves, today we broke a barrier that had not happened before, a policeman served the ball to the inmates, the boys ran without hatred as if they were free!
In that trance where a ball converts all players and assistants, I forgot the situation and them too!
We hugged! We laughed!
We helped each other! We were motivated!
We played a beautiful game!
I came back home!
The boys to their bed to keep the faith for a second chance in life!