Football is a universal language and it created a beautiful friendship for Argentina Ambassador Gustavo Pandiani and the Barbados football fraternity.
And to that end, the Argentinian has vowed to keep working for the greater good of Barbados’ football as his assignment comes to an end.
“President Randy Harris opened the gates of the BFA (Barbados Football Association) to me. He was a brother during this time and I feel I am going to be his brother for the rest of my life. The only wish I have now is that next World Cup I would have two teams to cheer up; Argentina and Barbados,” he said happily.
He was speaking at the end of a farewell staged in his honor at the BFA’s Wildey Turf on Sunday, where 37 past and present footballers, ministers, and entertainers graced the field to give him a fitting farewell.
Pandiani said he told President Harris almost three years ago that Barbados was going to be in the World Cup; if not this one the next.
“You have made a lot of progress. You’re working seriously. You have the best coach in the Caribbean, Russell Latapy, who is a great coach and you have the talent. You need may be to develop a little more strategic type of training, but once you do that you’re going to be in the next roster of the World Cup,” he said.
The ambassador who departs the island on November 5, will take up his new post in Argentina’s Capital (Government), but he said Barbados would always live on in his heart.
“I will keep working for Barbados sports from my position in my Government. The fact that I am not going to be the ambassador anymore does not mean we’re not going to be working together. I am going to be your representative in my own country,” he said happily.
Ambassador Pandiani took the BFA’s Under-17 national team to a week-long training stint to Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires two years ago; a trip he said which planted a seed.
“I realized it was more than a sports experience. It was a cultural experience and the first time some of those kids were travelling. When you have your heart open, you don’t even need to speak the language properly. That was a seed we planted and that seed is going to grow. It was probably the first step for new opportunities in Barbados for football,” he said.
And Pandiani said his biggest achievement to date was being for and of the people and merging the two cultures together.
“I live as a common person. I don’t like the idea of being in the diplomatic ghetto being in the Sandy Lane circle. I like to be on the streets talking to the people, sharing your good and your bad sides, whatever you need, whatever I need I can call any of you.
“I think my best recognition ever is from the people, from the community. I have a great relationship with the Government, but as a diplomat, I don’t feel I only represent my Government to your Government; I feel I represented my people to your people. And in that sense, I think our peoples got together. We went to Argentina, spent time with Bajans in Argentina, I spent time with Bajans in Barbados, and I feel that is the most important accomplishment from my side. I was able to be part of your hearts and you part of my heart,” he said proudly.
Describing the moment as the happiest in his life since the birth of his daughters, Pandiani declared: “This game is just the final gesture of a society that welcomed me and I feel part of it. I don’t feel I lived these three years as a foreigner. I was part of your community and I am going to take that with me forever. I am going to be a friend from a distance now, but I am going to be a friend of Barbados forever”.