Writer: Gemma Dunn
Date:Friday October 22 2010
Kicking Off a Life of Freedom
Chilean Miner Super Mario speaks exclusively of Football Freedom
After 69 days stuck in 'hell', the first thing Mario Sepulvera, aka Super Mario, wanted was to head to the beach and play football. 'Football is the most beautiful thing there is so as soon as I left the cave and started my new life I wanted to feel air, water, and a ball at my feet'.
Mario is a long time lover of English football and says it has always been a dream of his to go watch a live Man U match at Old Trafford. So for Mario, and his fellow miners who share his footie passion, it was a nightmare turned into a dream when they surfaced from the hellhole to be invited to go to Manchester and watch a game in 2010/2011. Recently signed sponsors Concha y Toro also issued the joint invite and cheered the bravery of their fellow countrymen from thousands of miles away.
Bravery, but also fear. Mario says that 'Although I had faith in the people above on the surface, in the few days before contact was made we were losing hope. I thought about dying and I wrote a farewell note to my wife and kids'. But when the drill reached the men they knew they had been saved by god. They had been found, and Mario knew he would once again return to the outside world and play football.
Mario appreciates the joint invite coming from Concha Y Toro, 'I used to work as an electrician for Concha y Toro so personally I'm really happy that they are now an international success and are giving something back to us Chileans after this life-changing event'. Even Alex Ferguson has publicly admired the heroism displayed by the 33 miners, 'The miracle of San JosÚ is one of the most remarkable stories I've ever heard. The courage, bravery and resilience of the miners and the rescue teams was inspirational'.
Franklin Lobos, the 27th man to be hauled up the shaft, is the known footballer among the men. Nicknamed the 'magic mortar' for his free-kick abilities, he made Chile's national team and then traded in football for mining, believing it his most profitable retirement option. The first thing he did after reaching the surface was take a ball and show off his skills for the cameras and millions of TV viewers.
Football was used as a tool in the mine to bond the group together. Rescue workers sent a cable down the shaft into the mine 700m underground so that the men could watch games. Mario describes the value of this, 'Down in the mine watching football gave us a strong connection and group mentality. For me that is what makes football so beautiful'.
However, after watching many matches together with his fellow survivors, Mario appreciates the chance to be alone at the beach running free with just a football and his son. All the natural elements are in their glory as the clouds move in the colour-changing sky and the waves roll in. Mario charges after the ball to trap it and practice his balancing skills, determined to hold onto Chile. 'While I was in the mine I felt a power struggle between god and the devil, but up here out in the natural world I feel god all around and the devil nowhere to be seen'. Funny then it must seem to Mario that both his favourite football team and previous employers have devils as their trademarks.
While he catches his breath, and inhales the sea air he didn't know he would ever taste again, he faces the sea and prays. He gives thanks for his son, his freedom and his chance to go to Old Trafford, 'For me it is a dream come true to see Man U play live after so many years watching them on TV'.
By Gemma Dunn
Date:Friday October 22 2010
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