With every passing day of the COVID-19 pandemic, new acts of solidarity emerge from LaLiga clubs. Whether through financial or social support, the current health crisis has encouraged a stream of creativity, with many clubs developing new and interesting initiatives to support the most vulnerable and worst-affected groups. In doing so, clubs are setting an example for communities to do whatever they can to help overcome the effects of the pandemic.
After analysing what might be the best way to contribute, Villarreal CF has decided to ensure that low-income families are guaranteed basic sustenance. The #CuentaConmigo (#CountOnMe) charitable initiative launched by the club, together with the first-team players, coaching staff and the Carlos Bacca Foundation, provides more than 200 meals a day through Caritas Vila-Real to those most in need during the lockdown.
An initiative brought about by the first-team players and coaching staff
The origins of this initiative lie in an idea that was developed by the Yellow Submarine squad, who approached the club to see how they could help in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. "The first-team players and coaching staff informed the club of their intention to collaborate in light of the grave situation we're experiencing and asked us for advice on how they could do that," said Hernan Sanz, the club's director of communications.
The club immediately went to work on evaluating the different possibilities, contacting nearby centres and associations with which it regularly collaborates throughout the season. In order to team up to face this crisis, Caritas Vila-Real was quickly identified as an organisation that was significantly depleted as a result of the pandemic.
"Caritas Vila-Real told us that they were at minimal capacity and giving out fewer meals than needed because, as a result of the closure of schools and catering establishments due to the state of emergency, they weren't receiving the normal amount of provisions to supply people with and also they didn't have enough volunteers available due to the lockdown," explained Sanz. "We thought it was a good idea to guarantee the basic sustenance of low-income families and groups at risk of social exclusion in the surrounding area, who are even more greatly affected by this pandemic."
Assistance for health workers and security forces
From the outset, the project was well received and the squad was "thrilled" with the public’s reaction. The decision to undertake this action as a joint initiative with Carlos Bacca’s Colombia-based foundation, means that now the #CuentaConmigo project has three parties actively involved.
In light of the overwhelming enthusiasm for the idea, the Yellow Submarine decided to take the lead in this charitable initiative and use the kitchens at its stadium to cook the meals that were needed.
"We set out to supply the food, cook it at the Estadio de la Ceramica facilities and deliver it to Caritas and other associations within the community so that they could distribute it," Sanz continued.
This idea has quickly expanded to the benefit of other groups in the area. "We have also decided to provide free catering services to the various hospitals in the area for health workers and for the security forces who are keeping everyone safe," Sanz added.
Links to the city and the province of Castellon
Villarreal is a club that maintains what Sanz called a “very close relationship with the city and the province of Castellon" and during the regular season it carries out numerous social and charitable actions in the area. "The club has been collaborating for many years with different centres and associations both financially and socially," confirmed Sanz.
In fact, the club pioneered the launch of the Endavant Igualtat programme, which has now been running for five years. With this project, each of the club’s teams sponsor a centre in Castellon and organise visits each season.
In total the club collaborates with over 9,500 people of all ages through this programme, spanning areas such as tourism, education and culture. It has become such an integral part of the club’s identity that the brand Endavant (‘Forwards’) is now displayed on the sleeve of the first team kit.
“COVID-19 is a situation which has brought society even closer together," Sanz concluded, adding that Villarreal CF football has the power to provide help when it is needed most. “It’s about getting even closer to the people,” he said.