“A football team is a group of kids who dream of loyalty and commitment. They can’t do it alone, no matter if they’re called [Diego]Maradona, [Lionel] Messi or [Alfredo] Di Stéfano,” said Menotti.
Last month’s unveiling took place at the home of fourth-division side Club Excursionistas. The stadium’s location is well-known: it stands alongside a so-called ‘villa miseria’ or shantytown, close to River Plate’s famous Monumental stadium.
Addressing the press and an audience of more than 500 fans – including fans, coaches, youth players and local residents, Menotti said he was committed to the club villero “until his death.”
The new project has some other heavyweight backers too. According to reports, Jürgen Klinsmann, the famous German striker and former coach of the US national team, and former player and journalist Jorge Valdano, also world champion at Mexico 1986 will also be involved.
“For the first time there will be a ‘villero’ club in the AFA [Argentine Football Association], it will only be in the categories of children under 16. More than sports it is a social inclusion plan,” said Fernando Signorini, who formerly worked as a personal coach to Maradona and Messi.
Argentina has long been famed for producing so-called ‘street’ footballers, who honed their skills on the nation’s small-size ball-courts and streets.
Some 250,000 live in ‘villas miserias’ in Buenos Aires City. “The best players come from humble neighbourhoods, like Maradona, [Juan Román] Riquelme or [Carlos] Tevez,” said Signorini.
The project’s launch was sponsored by Menotti’s own football coaching school and Fundación Deporte, Salud y Educación NGO.
Club officials told the AFP news agency they intend to battle “ addiction, child malnutrition and discrimination” in the villas, encouraging youngsters to instead push for the pursuit of sporting triumphs.