Cali in Colombia is known for being one of the most dangerous cities in the world, forming the main urban centre in a rural part of the country. Violence and fighting are commonplace, including in some of the towns where Inter Campus operates, like Miranda, Corinto and Caloto. There are both ideological and economic reasons underlying the problem of the drugs trade, which poses a threat to children from young ages.
The football pitch, as is so often the case, becomes a safe space for them. This isn’t just in the physical sense, but also metaphorically in terms of values and behaviour. People who do not respect the Inter Campus rules are not able to attend. These values are centred around learning above all, cooperation between friends, a healthy lifestyle and community spirit.
The coaches are products of the education system and sometimes play a bigger role than the teachers themselves. “In my group, we have tried to help children even as young as ten years old move away from drug dependency. It’s something that saddens us. There were three children facing these problems and we managed to save two of them. The project was fundamental for them because it gave them the tools to act.” The coach expressed both pride and unease with the outcome, because they weren’t able to save all of them.
The power of sport is extraordinary, even when faced with issues that seem insurmountable. We are seeing lots of positive signs right now and things look good for the future. If we continue with patience, Inter Campus will bring about change slowly but surely.