Valencia is more than just a club that simply treats its fans to scintillating football on match days. Over the years, Los Che has styled itself as a club for the city and the region beyond, as it looks to give back to Valencians who have shown unwavering support.
Its strong ties to the Valencian Community has led the Bats to be one of Spanish football’s biggest clubs. And the club reciprocates with its charity arm – the Valencia CF Foundation.
“The other clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona have charities all over the world, but we wanted to focus on Valencia,” said Mr Pablo Mantilla, the foundation’s director-general who heads a team of six people. “We’re confident that the club can do more than just make our supporters happy, by helping the Valencian society as a whole.”
Established in 1996, the foundation oversees three areas: social responsibility; culture and roots; and education and health.
Valencia promotes its social responsibility through regular outreach programmes for the region’s underprivileged. For instance, the foundation organises football classes under the Valencia brand in public schools, employing former players as coaches. There are currently 50 public schools with over a thousand students in the programme.
“It is the only way these poor children stay in school,” shared Mr Mantilla. “We tell the schools that they have an instrument to motivate the children to improve their studies – if they work hard in their studies, they can stay in these football schools.” The foundation also has a football school for people with disabilities who train twice a week and compete in tournaments with their able-bodied peers, in the spirit of inclusivity.
Beyond football, the foundation looks to establish an even closer bond with fans through Valencia’s rich heritage. Under the pillar of culture and roots, it organises forums where club icons such as Mario Kempes and Ricardo Arias have been invited to share about the club’s historical moments. Word is also spread through the region with exhibitions held around the various Valencian towns every other month. “Many fans only know of Valencia’s recent history, and we also want them to understand the club’s history since its founding,” said Mr Mantilla.
Lastly, the foundation’s focus on education and health sees the club nurture the next generation for football, and aid the sick in Valencia. Players make charity visits to hospitals, and the foundation arranges for stadium tours to host the seriously-ill.
Future football administrators are groomed in the city. The Masters in International Sport Management – a partnership between the foundation and the ESBS European Sport Business School – is its crown jewel, with graduates going on to work at the likes of FIFA, UEFA and other European clubs.
“We’ve always thought that an important part of the foundation is the formation of people who can work in football – it’s one of the programmes we are proudest of,” said Mr Mantilla.
A football club is nothing without its fans, and this is why Los Che has always looked to give back to its supporters. “We’re very proud and grateful for the support that the Valencian people have given to the club, and we want to return this favour,” said Mr Mantilla. “So we have to help Valencia as well.”