Chen the conversation with Front Page takes place, Just a few hours ago another Football Library was founded. In this case, it was Antonio Mohamed’s at his school in Villa Soldati. The ‘Turco’ has been moved in the act, says Ignacio Irigoyen, creator and head of a project that accumulates with the aforementioned 79 inaugurations. He declares himself a fan of River and that same night Rayo has tied at the Metropolitano, so the talk is momentarily oriented towards Falcao… to return immediately to the books. Because Colombia is one of those involved: “We opened the one for Sebastin Prez, we have to open the one for Patron Bermdez in the city of Armenia, we have had some contact with Radamel himself…”
Soccer Libraries is a project that was born and has grown in Argentina, but with an international vocation. At the moment there are four countries, adding Uruguay and Paraguay to those already mentioned, and work is being done on Brazil, Mexico or Spain. Yes, Spain, although without much luck so far: “We have approved the brand there, even a distinction from the Ministry of Education through the ‘Lectureando’ program, but I have contacted Puyol or Morientes with no response, back in the day I also spoke with Enrique Cerezo, I visited the town of Iniesta. For one thing or another…”
Like father Like Son. Because Irigoyen was a volunteer from his childhood in an NGO created by his parents to bring libraries to rural areas. Then he decided to go to law, but a little over five years ago he decided to dedicate himself fully to writing and film, on the one hand, and to Football Libraries, on the other. Before attending to these, it is worth noting that Ignacio he has two novels (‘Los Nufragos del Plata’ has been published in Spain), a book of short stories, four collections of poems, three documentaries (one of them, ‘Someone has seen the Fuhrer?’, presented at DocumentaMadrid), scripts…
The objectives of the Libraries go through, bearing their name, promoting soccer players and former soccer players as agents of inspiration in the schools where they studied. “It’s about promoting reading habits in these populations and avoiding school dropouts [hay datos de que en Argentina alcanza un 54% en Secundaria]encouraging them to finish their studies,” explains Irigoyen. “The players return to their origins to leave an educational and cultural legacy in addition to sports,” he adds. The institutions created have physical and digital books, some of them on football and sports in general, another on children’s and youth literature.
Soccer players return to their origins to leave an educational legacy
The list is impressive: Diego Armando Maradona (a special section in the museum of Argentinos Juniors), scar Ruggeri, Jorge Valdano, Ricardo Bochini, Marcelo Gallardo (Now that he is in the news for his goodbye to River, Irigoyen remembers his inauguration in Merlo, a few days before that final of the Libertadores in Madrid, as one of the most moving acts he has witnessed), Cesar Luis Menotti, Gabriel Batistuta, Ubaldo Fillol, Javier Mascherano, Pablo Zabaleta… the one immediately prior to Mohamed’s was that of Gabriel Humberto Caldern and one of the next, on the other side of the Río de la Plata, will be Diego Godn.
The inaugurations have been held in person or via Skype: “The pandemic was also devastating in that aspect, because our events are about interaction. The kids hug their idols, ask for autographs or selfies… they take them as references, as examples , and a reunion party ensues.” And who finances the acquisition of books for these Libraries? “Sometimes the player himself, sometimes the municipality, sometimes the provincial government… in the case of Leo Ponzio, for example, it was a businessman friend of his”. Irigoyen also sentimentally remembers the case of Willy Caballero in Entre Ríos. “‘You took a thorn out of my heart,’ he said. He felt that he had failed his people in the 2018 World Cup.”
“The project works and has positive effects, but by definition it is something unfathomable, endless… you can always open another one, and another, and another one. It was something that did not exist as a concept and the schools recognize us that the boys go now more to those Libraries. It is true that there are some prejudices, but it is an action that lasts over time: the name and work of that player will remain forever.“, certifies Irigoyen, with Basque ancestry as his last name suggests. He, by the way, personally attends each and every one of the inaugurations.
The impact of the project in terms of the benefited population would already be around 60,000 students, with several distinctions for its public interest and an award at the International Children’s and Youth Book Fair in Buenos Aires for the promotion of reading. The basis is simple: football and literature books for minors, great players or former players, schools they attended in their day (even clubs or museums)… and a baptism with the name of each one of them and next to the educational community. From there, read. Anyone sign up in Spain? Football Libraries is an action that does not set limits.