Monday, November 4th marked the inauguration of the Atletico Bocas Isla football school, a collaboration between local trainers and the San Francsico Football Club. Not only is this a training program and recruitment outfit, but it is now the first official youth football league in the province of Bocas del Toro. The children of Bocas now have a sponsored league and the opportunity to train with experts, earn scholarships and hopefully one day blossom into professional football players.
It all started 8 years ago on the same football field beside the airport with Ediberto Deans and Rimercio Stephenson dreaming of football stardom for the people of Bocas.
“Instead of telling the kids not do this and not to do that, we wanted to give them something to do,” explains Ediberto, head of the ABI program.
And give the kids something to do is what they did. They began working with the youth of Bocas, teaching them how to play the game. Interest quickly arose and they named the program after their home; the neighborhood next to the football field known as “Barrio del Norte”.
Four years later, they really began to see the fruits their labor as one of their kids left the barrio and went on to become the first Bocatorenian to grace Panama’s professional football league. The program was renamed “Atletico Bocas Isla” as to expand the idea out of their tiny neighborhood. Today there are 4 professional players to come out of ABI (3 from Isla Colon and 1 from Bastimentos) and the organization has grown to over 200 members between youth players, coaches and the directors.
Recognizing the amount of talent coming out of the province, the San Francisco Football Club decided that instead of coming to the island to just recruit a few players every now and then, why not bring the school to the island? Atletico Bocas Isla is the 3rd outfit of the professional club, a part of the LPF (Panamanian Football League). The alliance is now official as representatives and trainers have been sent from Panama City to help organize the league. Now every afternoon the field is filled with the youth of Bocas, ages 4 to 23, in brand new uniforms, playing a game that will forever change their lives.
“It’s a social duty to provide the kids with certain behaviors and values that they will use for the rest of their lives; such as cooperation, team work, strength, and following orders and the same time it’s a place to recruit talent,” says Leonardo Pipino, head of the Football school.
Congratulations to Ediberto and Rimercio for making their dreams come true, thanks to Leonardo for recognizing the talent on the island and good luck to all the little ones in the program. Maybe one day they too will achieve their dreams of football greatness. Either way, one thing is for sure: many a good times will be had in all those training sessions and games along the way.