Buenos Aires, July 16 (IANS) Young boys have long regarded football as a way out of poverty in Argentina’s slums, but in recent years, thousands have turned to cricket thanks to an initiative launched by the Catholic church.
“I started around nine years ago,” Lucas Aguilera, 20, told Efe.
“I was one of the first kids to start training here. A neighbour friend of mine brought me. He told me, ‘Hey, there is a new sport at the church, come if you want’.”
Aguilera is one of the some 1,200 boys between the ages of 6 and 20 practicing the sport under the auspices of Cricket Without Borders.
He is also one of the players who travelled to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis and play friendly matches in 2007, as well as being part of the Argentine national team that won the South American Championship.
Cricket Without Borders was created in 2009 by Daniel Juarez and Silvina Roman, auditors for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, along with Rev. Jose “Pepe” Di Paola.
“Basically, what we do is teach respect,” Juarez said. “Respect for the opponent, for the sport, for oneself, for self-improvement and for learning. We take all these values we already have and pass them on to the boys so they can face the reality around them.”
Juarez added that cricket, a “distinctly elitist” sport, helps the boys grow to become gentlemen.