Connect to share and comment

Argentine football giants River Plate open university

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Deep in the depths of Buenos Aires' iconic Monumental Stadium, not far from where Mario Kempes once inspired Argentina to World Cup glory in 1978, fitness trainer Fernando Mas is planning for the future.

But while the famous 65,000-capacity arena situated above him rocks to the sound of raucous chanting whenever home club River Plate or Argentina's national team are playing, today a hushed, scholarly silence prevails.

Mas, 29, is one of around 70 students at the recently inaugurated River Plate University, believed to be the first institution of its kind operated by a football club anywhere in the world.

The son of legendary 1960s and 1970s River striker Oscar "Pinino" Mas admits that a lifelong association with the club was responsible for guiding him towards the university.

"I've chosen it above all because it's River," Mas told AFP. "Not only am I a supporter but I also love this club and know a lot of people here.

"The club is not satisfied with just football, which is at the heart of the team. This university is a testament to the club's greatness."

But while Mas's return to education may have been colored by his loyalty to the club, there are above all practical reasons for enrolling.

"I didn't want to be doing nothing. I wanted to start studying again and I needed a professor to pressure me and show me what to do," he laughs.

"My line of thought was to return to studying. But also I am a fitness trainer and I think that here, in a few years, like in Europe, a diploma will be required to sit on the bench," with substitutes and the technical team, he explained to AFP.

The most successful club in Argentine football's long history, River was founded more than a century ago.

An educational system was first set up under the club's auspices as far back as 1928, although it was restricted to players only.

Today, River teaches some 2,000 students from kindergarten through to university age, a one-stop shop catering to all.

It's possible to sign up a child "and for him to go through kindergarten, primary school, secondary school and then higher education or university," says Marcela Stronatti, head of River's primary school.

"It's an important academic offer and a very prestigious one in our country."

River Plate University chancellor Juan Carlos Pugliese says the club is a "social institution."

"We're more than 100 years old and we have developed an education system. Today we've realized that the club had to go up one level and create a university," he explained.

"There are a lot of universities that have a football team, but we are the only team with a university, and really, a comprehensive educational system," he adds.

The university offers four areas of study: sports marketing, sports administration, business administration and physical education.

"We want to shape professionals who correspond to different facets of the sporting world," Pugliese said.

A Mexican and Colombian are the first foreign students to enroll in the private institution, where classes cost 1,200 pesos per month (around $220), with a discount for team members. Those behind the university hope that more foreigners will enroll.

Teachers and administrators point to several footballers, both active and retired, who passed through River's school, including former Argentine international Hernan Crespo and the current darling of the national side Gonzalo Higuain, who has just moved to Napoli from Real Madrid.

Agustina, a young mother of two girls, an eight-month old and three-year-old, enrolled her children in River Plate's nursery and kindergarten, and expects her children to spend the entirety of their education at the school.

"The school is good and it's difficult to get a spot. I'm for River, and the girls as well -- but my husband roots for Independiente," she says.

"There's a prejudice that you have be from River to come here. The school is excellent, and that's why we chose it, whether you are a member of the club or not."

ls/bfm/rcw/sst/boc/ric

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130804/argentine-football-giants-river-plate-open-university