This month another successful state visit – in fact the first by Monaco to Colombia. Prince Albert’s schedule included being greeted by President Juan Manuel Santos in Cartagena for the purpose of signing a number of important agreements. Not only were these to include the Paris Climate Accord but also commerce, investment, science and the oceans.
It didn’t take long before, to everyone’s delight including the press, who reported heavily on it, that the two Heads of State would move onto one of their favourite topics – sport.
It’s not hard to guess which would be the most supported international soccer club in Colombia. Yes – AS Monaco! 50 million Colombians have their national hero Falcao, the Tiger, captain of AS Monaco to watch. Of course, it is well known that Prince Albert has a fascination not only for soccer but also Rugby – so also scheduled was a visit to the final of the Colombian youth seven-a-side Rugby tournament.
Sport plays a powerful role in Colombian society which according to press reports led Prince Albert to congratulate President Santos, a Nobel Prize winner, on his role in helping to bring peace to the people of Colombia. And the organization Peace and Sport builds on and reinforces efforts to create a peaceful culture throughout Colombia. 1500 youths from 80 towns and villages participate in Peace and Sport exchanges; 120 of these take place with youths from as many as 45 countries. Press reports covered all this and a visit by Prince Albert to an archaeological site in the Lost City, and then followed by a regional conference on acidification of the oceans.
Beach Soccer, naturally, is a much-loved pastime in Colombia. Peace and Sport has an inspirational ambassador Didier Drogba – and his participation in Beach Soccer with Colombian youths is just one of Peace and Sport initiatives. Hero of Marseille soccer club, the French press were close on his heels reporting that Drogba is inspired himself by the examples set by Prince Albert and Nobel Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos. Drogba saw how sport could teach tolerance and create social ties amid a background of terrible violence in Côte d’Ivoire. The kids in Cartagena lead hard lives away from the Beach Soccer sponsored by Peace and Sport – fathers assassinated and mothers often victims of domestic violence. Drogba loves his time with the kids playing soccer on the beach. The kids make the footballs and the goal-posts out of cheap materials. Drogba is proud that he is part of this effort, particularly as that effort is supported by Prince Albert, with awareness helped by reporting by the French press among others; there is a real intent to see the Peace and Sport initiatives have a lasting impact and to follow through.
A little light entertainment for the press when they were not covering Prince Albert, President Santos and Peace and Sport. Did Drogba follow AS Monaco. Did he prefer Marseille or Chelsea? Would he one day run for President of Côte d’Ivoire? What we glean from their reports is that yes, he follows Côte d’Ivoire. He loves equally both clubs that he played for, Marseille and Chelsea. Running for President of Côte d’Ivoire is not in his sights but more Peace and Sport activities that Prince Albert and Joel Bouzou (President of Peace and Sport) support – yes he will do more and more. It teaches tolerance and helps youths escape from violence. And once Drogba hangs up his soccer boots he will spend more time with his foundation, too.
And where did Prince Albert spend his time in Cartagena? At the “House Of Illustrious Guests” at the invitation of President Santos – a fitting residence for visiting Heads of State to Colombia (designed by Rogelio Salmona) and situated not far from the Fort of San Juan.