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September 16, 2014
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Sport in prison

By Eric Weil / Sportsworld

An agreement between the Argentine Justice Ministry and the government’s Sports Secretariat to organize team sports in prisons was one of the better things done by these government entities. Some time ago this column mentioned a soccer team formed in a prison which played in a regional league. Some of its members were being watched by these clubs and had the possibility of signing for them once they were released from jail which helped to get them reinserted into society and mend their ways.

Now we hear of a team named “Los Galácticos” (space men). In the No. 1 prison in Paraná which recently drew 0-0 with a Banfield XI. Playing soccer and training makes the prisoners feel free and brings some interest to monotonous prison life while some of the men also get the urge to continue playing, perhaps professionally, when they leave prison, in the local league. Two of their players were due to leave prison shortly before the team was due to play a final and they were not allowed to leave. In the nearby Campana jail there is also a team called “Pioneros” (Pioneers) playing in a local league.

Rugby meanwhile also increases in local prisons. It is calculated that there are some 400 prisoners playing rugby at 18 jails. Recently, the first rugby field approved by the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) was inaugurated at the No. 12 jail in Gorina and a triangular tournament was played with the No. 40 jail of Lomas and Universitario de La Plata, the club which had assisted this movement right from the start.

But women and field hockey have not been left out of this prison sports programme. The first women’s team was formed two years ago at the No.8 jail in La Plata. They are coached by no less than Jorgelina Bertoni, a former Argentine international between 1989 and 2000 who still plays for Banfield. The team calls itself “Aguilas 8” (Eagles 8).

When Bertoni was offered the job, she was a bit skeptical. The players would have a weapon (the hockey stick) in their hands and one could never know how some of them would react. To be able to play they must however have good conduct. Bertoni was surprised how keen they were and how quickly they learnt a game they had never even seen before. Conduct and friendship have improved and they have already played against other teams outside the jail which gave them a sense of liberty and more of an urge to obtain and keep it.

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