Though he was wearing a dapper business suit on Tuesday in the warm afternoon, the Real Madrid Foundation Ambassador Alvaro “Spartan” Arbeloa still shared a brief demonstration of dazzling football skills along with words of wisdom to the 150 children who participated in the Atlantic/Real Madrid Foundation Social Sports School.
The occasion was a special visit by Arbeloa to T&T to meet the boys and girls who have benefited from the partnership between Atlantic and the Real Madrid Foundation, and to inspire the children through a personal encounter with an international football champion.
“As a Real Madrid Ambassador, I can see the fantastic work that our Foundation is doing around the world in more than 100 countries, and I am so happy to be here and see all of that here in T&T,” Arbeloa said. “It’s a privilege to be able to transform football in solidarity, contributing to a better future for the children and youth of T&T.”
Toni Sirju-Ramnarine, Atlantic’s vice president of Corporate Operations, explained that the partnership between Atlantic and the Real Madrid Foundation was less about football skills, and more about a strategic intervention in the areas of education, family, health and psychosocial support for the at-risk youths in the Social Sports School.
“At Atlantic, we believe that young people do better when they have examples they can aspire to, and that is what we try to go through all our sustainability programmes and by partnering with our Sports Ambassadors and icons,” Sirju-Ramnarine said. “One student who joined this social sports school at 12 years old, was able to become fluent in Spanish which enabled him to secure a job in the Venezuelan embassy as a translator. Another is now with us, volunteering as an assistant coach because of the impact this programme had on his life.”
The children were as fascinated with Arbeloa’s football techniques as they were with his advice about the values that underpin the Real Madrid Foundation’s initiatives.
“I told them about the importance of teamwork; when you win, you win together, when you lose, you lose together,” Arbeloa said.
Launched in 2011, the Atlantic/Real Madrid Foundation Social Sports School combines football technical training with life skills instruction for at-risk children between the ages of seven and 14, selected from schools in Port-of-Spain and environs. The programme is among 17 active social investment programmes that the LNG production company facilitates at the national level and within its home community of Point Fortin.
The Real Madrid Foundation was established to promote sports among children. One of the Foundation's core beliefs is that sports contribute to the comprehensive development of young people, fostering healthy habits and ways of life among children and youths at risk. The Real Madrid Foundation also considers sport to be an essential factor in social integration and the promotion of such ethical values as solidarity, participation, team spirit, respect for one’s opponent and non-discrimination.
Now retired, Arbeloa started his career with Real Madrid. In 2006, he transferred to Deportivo La Coruna and moved back to Real Madrid in 2009, where he spent seven years, helping the club secure eight major titles, including the 2011–12 edition of La Liga and two Champions League titles.
Alvaro made his debut in the powerhouse Spain national team in 2008. He made 56 international appearances for Spain, representing the country at the 2010 World Cup, Euro 2008 and Euro 2012. Spain won all three tournaments.