When there are only a few minutes left before five in the afternoon, the door of the Seneca Philosophy School in Hortaleza begins to fill with parents. As time passes and the time change approaches, the various conversations, previously clearly heard, turn into a general murmur as more and more people approach the small orange portal that gives access to the school playground. What is barely intelligible from a distance reveals that the conversations of those present revolve around their daughters: anecdotes from school, the latest fun fact or the latest illness from which they recovered. They all brought their eight and nine year old granddaughters to soccer practice at Scorpion1997, a non-profit association dedicated to promoting, through sport, the personal and social development of children, particularly those at risk or vulnerable. At five o’clock, the bell rings, the metal door opens and the football begins.
The team’s coach, Montserrat Velarde (36), accompanies them to the indoor football field located in the patio, which at each end has a goal with the posts painted red and white and the nets perforated by the goals they receive. Montse, as she likes to be called, comes from a family with a great football tradition, but like many other girls of her time, her parents did not let her play the sport: “My father was a football coach, my brother also played and my uncle came to coach Rayo Vallecano, but they didn’t let me play, because I was a girl and because I was the youngest in the family”, remembers Montse, who, as a child, covered his bruises when he came home, so that his parents would not discover that he had played ball at a party.
Due to her personal history, Montse took the initiative to eliminate these types of obstacles for her two daughters, aged seven and nine, who are also part of the Alacrán 1997 youth team. Since her trench, she celebrates the visibility that she football Women’s football has gained in recent years: “Every time girls have more feminine references and boys watch more and more women’s football, there is a significant change in mentalities. Now my father, who wouldn’t let me play, comes to us and tells my daughter, “have a big breakfast because you have a game,” she says as her eyes light up. “I’m a volunteer here and it’s a sacrifice, but my reward is seeing my daughters enjoy what I was never able to enjoy at their age,” confides someone who admits to having received offers of employment of other teams. “They offered me a job outside of Alacrán, doing the same thing as me here, but with a salary. But here are my daughters and, besides, if they paid me to do this, I don’t think I would do it,” concludes Montse, who complements her passion with a job in an insurance company.
Rubén López (45 years old), coordinator of the entity, explains that one of the three main slogans of Alacrán 1997 is to have two teams, one female and one male, in each of the eleven active categories, which range from six to eighteen years old. The second slogan is that minors who wish to join the team can do so without their parents having to pay membership fees: “The members agreed that it would never happen that someone who does not have money to pay ends up without playing football.” says López, who, with a group of young friends, started the training project thirteen years ago, with the aim of “giving something back to the neighborhood” in which they grew up. The third slogan is that everyone who wanted to be part of the structure of Alacrán 1997 had to do so as volunteers. Currently, there are 40 people who, without receiving a salary, occupy administrative, operational and technical management positions within the association.
For the project to maintain these three characteristics – egalitarian, free and voluntary – external funding is essential. According to López, the association tries to finance itself with Christmas raffles, solidarity markets and donations from the members themselves, but this only constitutes 15% of the annual budget. The remaining 85%, which is used to finance operating expenses, rent the facilities and purchase the balls and clothing, comes from outside, both from the public and private sectors, with Fundación La Caixa being one of its main promoters. Joana Prats, director of relations with social entities of the foundation, emphasizes that the Alacrán 1997 project was chosen from several proposals because it promotes “physical activity, social inclusion, connection with the territory, the involvement of families and informal education.
López contributes by delving deeper into this last aspect, emphasizing that some players in older categories, from 14 to 17 years old, who see qualities of leadership and understanding of the game, are also offered the opportunity to train to become certified coaches. “It is always important to have a job opportunity. Even if they don’t dedicate themselves to it, it is good for all of us to know how to earn extra income at some point in our lives,” says the coordinator. One of these remarkable students is 16-year-old Irina Sanseroni , with whom it is enough to exchange a few words to attest to his developed maturity. “I had never been part of a football team, because my family could not afford it, until I “arrives in Alacrán. Here, I learned that you have to fight to achieve your goals, however far they may seem”, says the one who was part of the minor categories and who now assists Montse during the training of the Benjamin women’s team. “I try to pass on the values I have learned to the little ones,” she concludes enthusiastically.
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