Thursday 04 April 2019, 19:57

Emotional Campos reflects on Fuego volcano visit

During 16 years as a professional and 12 with the Mexican national team, Jorge Campos got to see most of the countries in the Concacaf region. A few days ago, however, he experienced something entirely different in Guatemala. As part of the FIFA Legends Programme and in conjunction with the FIFA Foundation, Campos visited some of the victims of the Fuego volcano tragedy that hit the country.

The former striker-turned-goalkeeper was deeply moved by the power of football during his time among refugees from the areas affected by the volcanic eruption, which left hundreds dead and injured in mid-2018. Campos interacted with the affected children in particular and shared his feelings about the experience afterwards with

Jorge Campos’ mission in Guatemala:

  • Inspect the affected area alongside the FIFA Foundation

  • Meet with the victims of the tragedy

  • Distribute sports equipment and sign autographs for the children

  • Play football with them Jorge, how was your experience in Guatemala?

Being part of an event like that with children is always amazing, but even more so when it’s those who had the misfortune to endure the volcano. You never think that your reach can extend to children. What really caught my attention is the difference a simple football can make. We took hundreds with us and it was so nice to see their reaction when you tell them that they’re gifts for them, and then see them playing and chasing after a ball. Seeing their faces before we gift them the equipment, and then the change afterwards… Those gifts are unforgettable for them. Everyone wants to play football! It's something global, right? It’s a very nice experience to have a gift like that. I mean not everyone thinks of having ex-players give footballs to children who have nothing. And a ball can change everything.

It seems such a small thing, but it can have a huge effect…

People told me that and I myself thought it ‘seemed like nothing’, but it’s the greatest gift a child can have, right? They don’t have football boots, while some play with sneakers. I’ve also played barefoot, but all that matters is that you get the ball rolling and run after it. It was a wonderful experience that fills me up and also strengthens my resolve to keep going to these kinds of events around the world. The ball has no language – it rolls but doesn’t speak. It also creates organic, natural communication. The ball gives you everything.

It’s something unique for the kids but what about for you players? How important is it for the FIFA Legends to experience these kinds of things?

It’s something special for any player, or any Legend. It changes your perspective. You look on the problems you have in your life, your home, your village differently when you see people who have endured so much loss – the loss of homes and many lives. And playing with them, taking photos or simply spending time with them fills you a beautiful and very paternal energy. Hopefully many players, even those who are still active, can take that minute to send a video, some footballs or whatever. They don’t realise how profound and beautiful it is for these children. If those of us who are no longer playing can do it and generate all this, imagine what active players could achieve.

Was there anything in particular that surprised you on the trip?

Yes, when the kids decided among themselves to give me one of the little bracelets they all wear. I won’t forget that because they were just kids who had no idea who I was. I kept it just as I kept everything that was given to me in my playing days from people with good vibes. They served me very well – I missed out on a World Cup win, that’s all! (laughs)

The career of Jorge Campos:

  • FIFA Legend, 52 years old, former Mexico goalkeeper and striker

  • Clubs played for: Pumas UNAM, Atlante, Los Angeles Galaxy (USA), Cruz Azul, Chicago Fire (USA), Tigres, Puebla

  • International appearances: 129 caps between 1991 and 2003. In two of those he played solely as a forward, while on seven other occasions he was used as a goalkeeper and a striker in the same game

  • 46 career goals

  • FIFA World Cup™ record: USA 1994 (Round of 16), France 1998 (Round of 16) and Korea/Japan 2002 (Round of 16)

  • Winner of FIFA Confederations Cup 1999

  • Winner of Concacaf Gold Cup in 1993 and 1996

  • 2 Mexican league titles (1990/91 and 1997)

  • 1 MSL Cup (1998)

  • 1 US Open Cup (1998)

While you were in Guatemala, did it bring back memories of the young Jorge Campos who used to play barefoot in Acapulco?

Yes indeed. It all came back to me when I first met them. I told them that I’d played on dirt pitches and on sand without shoes. What I enjoyed most back then was just having a ball because you could play with it anywhere. Sure, we were always hurting our feet because of the stones, and for these kids it’s the same. So yes, you reminisce about how you started out and how things were at that time.

The FIFA Foundation is helping build sports facilities in the area. How do you think it can help the refugees?

I told the [Guatemala] Football Federation, “Hey, there are various children here who can play very well. If they play like this on that kind of pitch, imagine how they’d do on grass". They play every single day and with a lot of passion, so having good facilities would help them to become better people. Football can take you away from all the bad things on the street. For a child, it can change your perspective on how to grow up.

What message did you give the kids when you spoke to them?

We usually speak to them about the importance of passion when it comes to growing as a person. We explain that running or playing sport is part of that, and that chasing after a ball will always bring about something good. In my case it brought me a long way – it made me a better person and a sportsman. So, I told them not to lose their passion, regardless of whether they were boys or girls, and that what had happened before was in the past.