The first photos ever taken at Inter Campus Cameroon were in black and white. And that’s not because there weren’t available yet. Rather, it was the choice of the official photographer, Franco Origlia, to emphasise with contrast the nature of a continent full of contradictions and extremes. However, it is true that 20 years have passed since our first African project started in Cameroon, when we opened a pilot project with the Centro Orientamento Educativo in Milan and Francis Kammogne, the secretary of the Centre Sportif Camerounais, the organisation that oversees all the nation’s sporting activities.
In the 20 years that it has been up and running, the Inter Campus project has also expanded to involve children from three other sub-Saharan countries (Uganda, The Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola). Moreover, Inter Campus have been proceeding with caution to establish further projects, with an emphasis on stability, and reliable partners, because we have always been aware of the sensitive nature of work involving football and young Africans, strengthening the social action projects already carried out with commitment from NGOs or local associations.
20 years of travel, meetings, programmes implemented or modified during work, because local organisations often require a great deal of adaptation and the ability, at times, to take a step back and reconsider everything. But above all, it has been 20 years of fun and games. It’s always heart-warming to meet men that we first met as boys, particularly those who took part in our oldest projects in Cameroon and Angola, who we first saw running barefoot after the ball on the muddy red earth, looking to score in goals marked by two banana branches planted on the ground, and now they come back bringing their children to play with the Inter Campus project (people have children at a younger age here).
Often, they become coaches and teachers themselves. And everyone remembers their years at Inter Campus fondly, whether they were involved in Limbé, with its intense rainy season, on the Atlantic coast, or in the torrid heat that literally parches the land in Garoua, a port city which lies on the edge of the Sahara. Many also remember the great celebration of 2009, when we invited 20 children from every country with an Inter Campus to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Project at an "Inter Campus World Cup" in Tuscany, with all participants returning home with a brand-new bicycle, donated by one of our partner organisations. We have seen that some of these bicycles still being ridden here, because nothing is thrown away, and now it’s the younger brothers and sisters of the children who came to Tuscany that are in the saddle.
However, when it comes to our project, we’re not just living in the past. Indeed, it’s still very much active, even in this current period where there are limitations due to the coronavirus. And although sub-Saharan Africa has been spared more than other places, there have been lockdowns and difficulties in moving and gathering. In places where contact with other people is very limited (isolated villages, institutions for orphans), we’ve put on football activities while respecting all the local social distancing rules, which have been reinforced by our own protocol relating to behaviour on and off the pitch as we look to safeguard the health of the children and coaches. Where it’s not possible to play together, our instructors/coaches have constantly received videos containing advice and instructions in order to help them continue to learn and grow. Furthermore, contact with all our children and their families has been maintained.
Because once this pandemic is over, we all want to be ready to resume our activities in full without our educational development work having been interrupted. We can’t wait to see those children wearing the Nerazzurri colours, running around on that red earth, hugging each other after a goal and laughing with those white teeth that are no longer covered by masks. Because football is the joy of playing together, irrespective of the obstacles that might stand in the way.