Laureus Feature - Peru, July 26, 2012
Anthony didn’t know the man who took his brother. It happened quickly. The stranger emerging one day at the orphanage where they both lived and, in doing so, spelling an end to the only life they had ever known.
Anthony would never see his brother again.
The young boy from Lima, the capital of South American country Peru, was just six the day it happened. In the years preceding, the two siblings had come to mean everything to one another. They had been abandoned by their parents on the step of a state orphanage when Anthony was just a baby and his brother little more than a year older.
Even now it remains unclear as to how someone could abduct either of the children from the institution, but in the following years one thing has been made certain.
The man who did so was their father.
Peru’s government-run orphanages, the kind in which Anthony has always lived, are almost exclusively the ones with the least resources. A consequence of this is a poor education record and a population of the most troubled young people. It comes as no surprise that such places, of all orphanages, are the ones that prove the most difficult in which to live.
Living in such places, no longer with a single family member on which to rely, Anthony’s behaviour gradually went from worse to worse. The prospects for him, though always at a disadvantage, seemed beyond hope.
It was at the age of 13, however, following his move to a new orphanage named San Francisco de Asis, that Anthony’s path in life began to change for the better.
And helping this to happen was the Laureus-supported football project Liga LimaKids who were active at his new home.
Anthony had never excelled in his academic studies, and he would be the first to admit that, even today, this remains the case.
But what the football project finally offered him was the opportunity to excel in something not classroom based but significant nonetheless, an opportunity sadly lacking for him previously.
The consequences of this were not only the development of his football skills, but perhaps more importantly, a distinct change in character as well, something those working with him at the project gladly testify to.
Dr David Moore from Liga Limakids explains how Anthony was a ‘tricky’ kid when he started, even being able to remember matches where the young man had been not allowed to play because of his behaviousr. “But over the last two years,” Moore adds, “his behaviour has improved dramatically.”
And now, his maturity, leadership qualities and excellent football skills have resulted in his being chosen as a training assistant himself.
Those working with Anthony, meanwhile, consider this level of responsibility particularly important as he approaches the age when he will be leaving the orphanage.
“He has nobody to rely on outside the institution,” Moore says, “and before he leaves, it is invaluable to prepare him for the real, working world.”
In doing so, Anthony is currently putting what he has learnt from the project toward helping train his own group of nine to 11 year olds in a separate orphanage from his own.
Thanks to Laureus support, Liga Limakids has been able to grow into the stable, life-changing organisation it is today capable of offering these services to such disadvantaged young people.
“The first few years that we operated, it was really on a shoe string budget,” Moore explains. “And almost all the team were just volunteers.
“Once Laureus became involved, we were able to enjoy better access to coaches, who could become full-time staff, and we also became able to transport teams to and from games much better, which were all things that helped us expand the number of participants, too.”
Anthony has clearly benefited from these increased capabilities for a project that often works within some of the most disadvantaged of orphanages in Lima.
“Some are a very high standard,” Moore explains, “but some operate as well as they can with very limited resources. These kids are certainly getting a level of security provided but there simply isn’t capacity to deliver much more and certainly nothing in terms of sport.
“What La Liga Limakids enables is that many of them can participate in competitive team sport for the first time and through our fair play rules the project delivers all those great things Laureus stand for such as teamwork and respect.”
Anthony’s success is testament to this belief. And those who have seen the young Peruvian grow into a role of such responsibility hold out hope that he will find a career for himself within the sport he loves so much in the future.
For the time being, and though he knows they are out there somewhere, Anthony has not heard from his father or brothers.