It's 19.20 on a Friday. Although the door is open, a group of footballers queues at the entrance of dressing room 1 of the sports city of Vallecano Ray. They pass one at a time. Before accessing and almost as a password, everyone embraces, kisses or clashes hands with the person who welcomes them. That ritual is the only thing that differentiates this team from the rest of the ones that Vallecana has.
The recipient of so much love is Doaa Abdelrazek (40 years old, Cairo). In the morning he works in an engineering company. He has a postgraduate degree in management of sports entities. Speak four languages. Among them, a perfect Spanish. She is the coordinator and team delegate of Rayo Vallecano in LaLiga Genuine, a competition of The league pioneer in the world that develops its Foundation for people with an intellectual disability higher than 33%.
"This team is just like the rest. They have the same rights and the same obligations. We want to normalize their sport, to feel like what they are: soccer players ", explains Abdelrazek. There is a lot of affection and professionalism. Concessions, none. The previous week, after a friendly match, one of the players said something out of tune. He asked for forgiveness in the WhatsApp group. A colleague replied: "Your apologies are very good, but we talked about this on Wednesday in training, because they are things that can not happen". At the door of the locker room, he makes an aside with the coaching staff and asks for forgiveness. He will be two weeks without training, acting as assistant in the sessions. He performs his new temporary work as if he had dedicated himself to it all his life.
Before leaving, the costumes are space for jokes. David del Valle (40 years old, Madrid) is told that he has the same hair as Zidane. It fits well: "What a bastard!" He answers. "Cabrón no; Realistically! "Says Ángel Sánchez (21 years old, Madrid). And David ditches the debate with a "I love you all," which leads to a general laugh. In a corner, quiet and with a gesture of concentration is Antonio Luengo (21 years old, Madrid), the captain of the team. It's left side. Wearing the bracelet "is a pride".
Time to jump to the field. Juanjo García (38 years old, Madrid) is the coach. Bachelor in INEF, national title of trainer and 15 years of experience in people with disabilities. "Control, pass and I move to free space!", Explains the players, who are divided into several groups. "We repeat the exercises a lot so that we assimilate them and apply the Rayo's DNA: to have a good time, you have to have the ball," he says. With the help of Gracia Fernández (24 years old, Madrid), second coach, and Nacho Tejedor (32 years old, Madrid) physical trainer and goalkeeper coach. All agree that the coexistence with the players is "gratifying at the moment" and leave a reflection: "Today we are here, but tomorrow we can be there. We worry about things that do not matter. " All the players have an acquired disability, consequence of some vital circumstance.
They were Rubén Almazán and Álvaro Cano (Tarragona, 34 years old), two fans and soccer players of the Nàstic Genuine, who had the idea of founding the competition. They proposed it in person to Javier Tebas, president of LaLiga. "La Liga Genuine is our league of the stars," Tebas said in a telephone conversation. He has been present in all the days and is left with a very footballing detail: "The hugs that players give you … They are real hugs. You take them forever. "
Cast of hugs
All the people consulted for this report have mentioned at some point the word "hug". Also "values" and "learning". And all, without exception, have told a story that bristles the skin. By human and simple. Like the one in that match in which Nàstic was beating Cordoba and a Catalan player approached the Andalusian bench to cheer them up and tell them that they had to score a goal. And they marked it. Or that moment when Deportivo and Celta met in the hotel dining room and exchanged songs of encouragement. Or, also, the day in which a scholarship was raffled for a Rayo player and there was no raffle, because all the partners did an innocent hand in favor of the one who needed it the most.
In the 2017-2018 season, 18 teams participated. 216 games were played. 654 goals were scored. 2018-2019 will start on November 17 in Tarragona and will do so with 30 sets. The modality is football 8. The matches are divided into four 10-minute times. Each part won is a point. Four days will be held in six venues. The ball they use is size 4, one less than that of the professionals. According to the organization, last season there were two million hugs.
"It's a magical project that only brings good things. It helps athletes in their personal, social and sports development. It is an awareness and awareness exercise. And, in addition to everything, they are the ones that contribute to us, "explains Olga de la Fuente, director of the LaLiga Foundation.
It rains on Vallecas. The last minutes of the training are dedicated to a game with small spaces. The first day will be held on a narrower pitch. The two teams apply a football maxim: if the ball comes from one side, it goes to the other. Someone plays at the first touch. Jesús Murillo (Madrid, 30 years old) is on the left wing. Run with a contagious passion. It's his first day after several months injured. "How much I missed him!" He exclaims. And he starts to put pressure on an opponent.