The U19s and Aspropace get to know La Cerámica
The U19s and Aspropace get to know La Cerámica

The academy team and the users of the foundation visit the ground together

Villarreal’s U19s team (Juvenil A) have already started their 23/24 Endavant Igualtat project. During the current season, the young talents of the Submarine’s U19 team will team up with the users of the Aspropace Foundation, who have cerebral palsy.

And on the day on which the members of both parties presented themselves and started this journey together, what better way to do it than in the home of all the Yellows. “It has been a first contact with the team with which we are going to do this year’s Endavant project. We did a tour of the stadium and saw the different areas and got to know the players,” explains one of the leisure monitors from the Aspropace Foundation, Humberto González, to which the Yellows Academy U19s’ head coach, Mario Bárcena adds that “we decided to do a tour of the stadium because we had to transport a lot of people and here we have the facility to move around well”.

Although this was the first official meeting, Bárcena admits that there was a previous meeting in which the members of the Submarine were informed about the type of foundation that Aspropace is and its casuistry: “It is the first contact on a social level. We already had a previous meeting at the training ground because it was the first time that a large part of the staff and coaching staff had contact with people with cerebral palsy. Three workers and two users came to show us how to relate and interact with them-“

The different activities in which Villarreal and Aspropace will work together have a very positive effect for both parties. The head of the foundation describes it as “very enriching” and cites the personal relationships that are created as a great advantage: “Apart from the fact that they are young people, who have a different energy, we meet different people and we relate to each other in a different way. We try, from our experience, to make other realities and other ways of seeing life known”.

The players of the Yellows’ team see it in the same way. “I have been here for six years and all of them, except the Covid year, have been in the Endavant project. It helps us to get out of the residence, to get to know the reality of this world, which is not all wonderful. It enriches us a lot,” confesses Unai Rodríguez. His colleague Celso Bermejo agrees: “We are privileged because the simple fact of being able to depend on ourselves. It makes us see the reality of life. Football gives you a lot of values and makes you realise that not everything is rosy”.

In addition to their footballing qualities, the youth team’s promising young players tend to stand out for their maturity off the pitch, as the Cantabrian coach of the U19s team says about the boys’ involvement in the Endavant project: “When you see how old the boys are and how difficult it can be for them, we needed a first explanation to lay the foundations and make them aware of how to deal with them, but they surprise you for the good, regardless of the association you are working with. This is my fifth year in Endavant with people of different ages, children, cadets and youngsters and the kids have always been great in terms of how they get involved and how we convey to them the importance of this project for the club.”

Endavant Igualtat: another way of seeing life

Yellows Academy players and coaches always talk about how beneficial this branch of Endavant is because it forces them to see other realities. And that is what González believes Aspropace, in particular, brings to the project: “We have been collaborating with the project for many years. We bring our experience and let them know that, within the same city, because we are in Castellón, but we come to Vila-real a lot, there are people with many realities, but we find points of union and things that we can all like. Sport is an element that brings people together”. “The Endavant project seeks this relationship with the environment, to see these realities outside the football bubble and to relate to the Villarreal community, which is what keeps it alive,” added Bárcena.

For the Santander-born coach, Endavant Igualtat is essential for the Yellows Academy and he believes that this practice should be extended to the rest of the clubs through similar programmes: “I knew about the project before being at Villarreal and from the outside this generates healthy envy. All clubs should have a relationship with the environment and a social responsibility project like this”. Furthermore, he confesses that for those who come from other regions to work at an elite club like the Submarine, it is one of the best ways to understand the idiosyncrasies of Villarreal: “For those of us from outside the club, the part of the club that generates the greatest sense of belonging is the Endavant project, without a doubt. It is a very nice responsibility. All the associations tell us how grateful they are, but we are the most grateful.”