LaLiga Genuine - A league looking to make a difference
It was our first day in Madrid and all of us were tired after long flights from our respective countries. The prospect of a long evening session was a bit daunting, but it was to be followed by an exciting dinner at one of the city’s notable joints, and that surely got us all motivated.
After a small bus ride we were at LaLiga’s office and there started a session about the league’s efforts to go global. The presentations were interesting and passionate, but a tad verbose at times. As the meeting trudged along tediously, fatigue, both of body and mind, and ennui started to grip the scribes.
The mood took a sudden turn for the jovial as the new presentation started. The first slide mentioned LaLiga Genuine. Photographs were shown of animated faces, players bustling with energy and enjoying their time under the sun.
“It is the best thing I have been part of,” said the senior most official in the room. Representing the Basque club, Real Sociedad, the gentleman had been in football administration for years now. The zeal with which he spoke showed how close the competition was to his heart and that of everyone associated with it.
LaLiga Genuine is a league made up of teams entirely comprising players with intellectual disabilities, which the LaLiga Foundation rolled out for the 2017/18 season. An inclusive idea, it is part of Spanish professional football’s support for integration projects. The eventual goal is for every LaLiga club to have its own Genuine side and for these to make a major social impact.
THE GROWING NUMBERS
The inaugural season started with 18 teams and that number has now doubled, with 36 participating clubs registered for 2019/20 following the arrival of Real Betis, Cádiz CF, CD Tenerife, Elche CF, Granada CF and Getafe CF.
“Putting this project into action will allow the players in the LaLiga Genuine Santander team to demonstrate the values of the club such as humility, hard work, respect and self-improvement,” explained Rafael Muela, projects director at Real Betis’ charitable foundation.
At CD Tenerife, the new team started training in August and has already played several friendly matches to prepare in the best way possible. “This is one of our most important initiatives and we’re participating, collaborating and organising social responsibility actions with groups around the island, from not-for-profit organisations to youth centres to neighbourhood associations to older people’s groups,” Antonio Cano, the club’s social area coordinator, revealed.
And it is not just the new entrants, the existing members are equally focussed about the competition. Jaimie from Levante Unión Deportiva stressed on the need for clubs to make LaLiga Genuine a priority.
“For us it is of utmost importance to do well in this competition. We are prioritising Genuine and want to give it our best. We are preparing hard for this competition. We want to participate in the best way possible and even better if we win it,” he said.
The latest season got underway in November. The matches are spread over six weekends of action in six different locations, including some new venues for the upcoming campaign. The matches will be played at clubs Gimnàstic de Tarragona, Sevilla FC, Real Betis, Las Palmas, Sporting Gijón, Athletic Club Bilbao.