Fernando Llorente on Informe Robinson
As mentioned earlier, Fernando Llorente spent part of his summer in India, with the NGO Save the Children. Michael Robinson traveled to New Delhi with him, and a segment on Fernando’s time in India aired on “Informe Robinson” earlier this week. The segment, “Llorente Namasté,” also takes a look at Fernando’s childhood, with his brother Chus speaking about how difficult it was for the family to have Fernando leave at such an early age. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable 20 or so minutes, though I wish they had focused more on Fernando’s time in India. And it once again shows that Fernando Llorente is, in addition to being a fantastic football player, a wonderful human being.
Michael Robinson: Fernando collaborates with the NGO Save the Children, which fights for children all over the world. And since Fernando is an inquisitive type, he wanted to experience the work they do first hand, concretely here, in New Delhi, the capital of India. And Informe Robinson wanted to accompany him on this adventure.
Narrator: India, a paradigm of contrasts. One-sixth of the world’s population, 1.2 billion live here, where a caste system is still in place. India is the world’s biggest democracy, a mystical and spiritual place, the birthplace of Buddhism and Hinduism, which achieved its independence from Great Britain in 1947 due to the pacific methods of Gandhi. But in the world’s fourth largest economy, a leader in technology and pharmaceuticals, some two million children under the age of five die each year, or a fourth of the world’s total. This is Okhla, a slum located to the south of the capital, New Delhi. It’s an example of the crude reality that 100 million people suffer in the entire country. Almost a third of the Indian population live on less than one euro a day. Of the 14 million people that live in New Delhi, 20 percent live in poverty, in slums like this one.
Aarti has one of the most dazzling smiles in Okhla. Perhaps that’s because her father, Viyai (?) raises cattle. Ten years ago, he quit his job in a factory and started his own business. Cows are sacred in the Hindu religion, useful for milk and as potential mothers of oxen. Aarti, who is seven, lives with her parents and her three siblings in a tiny house.
The problem of infant mortality is dramatically heightened in the slums. One out of every 10 children dies before he or she reaches the age of five. This is Lalid (?), who is 10. His father has a small store selling food at the entrance of the slum. The average family income here is between 40 and 70 euros a month. Lalid’s mother, like all her neighbors, is a housewife. People who live in other parts of the city refer to these people as “slumdogs.” These slumdogs are about to receive a visitor.
In 1996, a boy who lived in the Riojan village of Rincón de Soto caught the eye of some of the most important teams in Spain. The family of the boy decided to accept Athletic Bilbao’s offer.
Fernando was always the tallest one, wasn’t he?
Chus Llorente: Fernando left when he was 11, and my parents lost a son during the childhood of my brother. Even though they occasionally saw each other on weekends, I was the one in charge of going, because my parents were working all the time, and I was in a way his father.
Narrator: The Llorente family is a humble one. The father is a butcher, the mother worked in Alcampo (a hypermarket chain) and in a book store. Fernando and Isabel had to go through the difficult time of watching their son leave. Fernando lived with a new family, his second parents.
Chus Llorente: my brother has spoken many times about how tough it was for him, but I believe it was more difficult for my parents. Fernando left with the dream of playing football, of becoming a footballer, and it’s different, it’s different.
Being away from home, with a different family… Fernando was a silent and introverted kid, and he didn’t tell us anything. We had to find out things for ourselves.
Narrator: in his house in Bilbao, Fernando experienced a tragedy that affected his personality.
Chus Llorente: the mother passed away, so it was another difficult time in Fernando’s life. Having to live through a cancer in the family, when you’re part of the family but not part of the family… it was difficult.
Narrator: there were other similar histories. But if we’re talking about this kid today, it’s because Fernando survived and made a name for himself with Athleti. The tall, blond boy who controlled the ball is now a prestigious footballer. He’s grown up a lot, although those who know him well say that he’s still a child.
Chus Llorente: Fernando loves children, so what better way is there to give back all that football has given him by giving back to children with Save the Children?
Narrator: Fernando Llorente is an ambassador of Save the Children, an NGO that helps children and that was founded more than 90 years ago. It’s present in more than 125 countries. Save the Children asked Fernando if he wanted to see their work first hand. And just like he didn’t hesitate to leave his hometown to become a footballer, he traveled the distance between Spain and India, going between the comfortable life of a star athlete to a marginalized population like the people of the Okhla slum.
Michael Robinson: what was your first reaction when you got to the slum, what impacted you the most?
Fernando Llorente: everything, the contrast is not normal at all. Getting there, just the smell that is there pushes you away. Then you take a few steps and you have a hundred flies buzzing around you. You have to keep your mouth shut, because if you don’t, they’ll fly into your mouth. These are the conditions they live in. You get the sense of claustrophobia, that you can’t breathe deeply…
Narrator: for three days, Fernando learned about the work of the NGO in the slum, during which he got to know several health workers. Save the Children trained almost 1,500 of them in India during the last year. One of the biggest worries is the health of recent mothers and their newborns. Many workers teach the women in chats like this one, which Llorente attended, along with his translator, Bukprit (?). In the slum, more than 80 percent of women give birth at home and without qualified assistance. It’s essential to know what certain guidelines need to be followed, and to vaccinate the babies.
Translator: she has all the records, the history of the women, and she’s explaining to them that it’s important to save the card.
Narrator: adults and children visit the mobile clinics when they come, twice a week. More than 100,000 people, including Aarti, depend on the doctor, nurses and pharmacist that work in each one.
Fernando Llorente: Save the Children has six of these in Delhi, and they’re capable of reaching all the slums. It’s a lot of people, so it’s very difficult. It’s a lot of work. We were there observing for three days, but any help is good.
What are the most common diseases that the children have?
Doctor: there are external maladies such as fever, stomach-aches, skin infections, diseases resulting from drinking contaminated water, such as dysentery or diarrhea, as well as prenatal and postnatal check-ups.
You lose your vision all of a sudden? (No, I only have headaches.)
Does your head feel heavy?
Eat green vegetables, drink boiled water.
Fernando Llorente: so you have to convince the children, the mothers to take certain medications to feel better and to treat their diseases.
Doctor: there are people who don’t know anything, and we have to advise them on many things, from nutrition to immunization. We try to do everything we can.
(Fernando showing off what he learned in his English classes!)
Narrator: in India, almost half of the children from the lower class don’t attend school. The visit to the school is a good moment to think back about Llorente as a boy.
Michael Robinson: here we are after a monsoon, with a humidity level of at least 130 or 140 percent. He had the great idea of making me go up 17 floors to the roof.
When you were a kid, did you always want to be a footballer, or did you think about being something else as well?
Fernando Llorente: I remember that there was a point in my life when I wanted to be a bullfighter.
Michael Robinson: really?
Fernando Llorente: yes. Luckily I got over it, because putting yourself in front of a bull… it’s a bit dangerous, no? I studied singing for six years, and during the fourth year, I began playing instruments. I started with the piano, and then my town decided to start a band. I chose the clarinet.
Michael Robinson: I would have chosen the triangle.
Fernando Llorente: it’s easier, it doesn’t weigh as much.
Michael Robinson: you left home at a very early age, no?
Fernando Llorente: yes, I left when I was 11. I had this dream of becoming a footballer, and so I went for it. I was lucky to have a family, parents who allowed me to do that, because it was very, very tough for them and for me as well, because they missed out on my childhood, and no one can ever give that back to my parents. They can’t ever get that back.
Michael Robinson: you come from a very humble family.
Fernando Llorente: well, my parents had to work very hard to give their children a better life, so that we could live better than they did, that’s what they’ve told us many times. And since we had a lot of opportunities, we try and help others out.
Michael Robinson: position yourself here, and I’m going to teach you…
He has to hit this.
Narrator: Llorente is a football world champion, but very few kids in Delhi would recognize him or his teammates. Here, the national sports have British antecedents: field hockey and cricket. The gardens of Hauz Khas are very different than the slums. There, Llorente provides a very different image: a champion visiting the families.
Fernando Llorente: this is his house?
Narrator: it’s the house of Lalid.
Fernando Llorente: I want to ask them how many people are in their families, and what they do for a living.
Woman: there’s four of us. We work and the children study. My husband has a small store, over there, outside. He sells things, Pepsi, water…
Fernando Llorente: have they noticed the work Save the Children has done here? What do they think of it?
Woman: when the mobile hospital comes, they always give us medicine. My son had health problems but the medicine they gave us cured him.
Narrator: Llorente continues with his walk, and ends up at the house of another child, Arbin (?) , and he speaks with his mother, Sugandi (?).
Fernando Llorente: I would like to ask her if she was born here, if she’s always lived here, or if she’s looked for a better place to live.
Woman: I came here 10 years ago.
Translator: why did you come here?
Woman: because there was poverty and hunger. We came here to earn money to be able to eat. There’s no work in the village, so what could we do there?
Fernando Llorente: are they aware of the work Save the Children has done here?
Woman: : yes, they do good things. When they come, they bring medicine and teach us things.
Narrator: another long walk takes us to Aarti’s house.
(Love the kid laughing at Fernando!)
Fernando Llorente: how do they organize themselves, with everyone living here together, because there are two parents plus four children?
Man: some of the children sleep in the room upstairs. The others, down here.
Translator: where, above?
Man: yes, above. We did this ourselves. We built the bedrooms slowly, according to how much money we had.
Translator: are you happy living here? Are there any problems?
Man: we’re happy. We’re happy and we don’t have any big problems.
Michael Robinson: was the weariness physical or emotional?
Fernando Llorente: I think it was a mixture of everything. It’s mental of course, because it’s hard to absorb everything that you’re seeing, and because you see things that will be difficult for you to ever forget.
Images of children living in untidy conditions, lying on the ground, or when you see the children taking baths in unpleasant conditions. The river, which runs next to the houses, smells very, very bad.
Michael Robinson: Fernando, did this impact you in any way?
Fernando Llorente: yes, it touches you because it’s difficult to understand how so many people can live in such small spaces. Each family has a mother and a father, and a minimum of four children. All the families have many children. And they live in four square meters, which is a lot.
Michael Robinson: well Fernando, more or less one week ago you boarded a plane, and after 20 hours, you landed in New Delhi. What were you thinking during this trip? Did you have any preconceptions about what you would find here?
Fernando Llorente: no. I could never have imagined how this adventure would turn out. It’s been a very beautiful experience, but also a very difficult one. I saw things that I could never even have imagined existed.
Michael Robinson: and when you saw the children, did anything catch your eye?
Fernando Llorente: yes, they were the most beautiful part of this experience, because the children at least looked happy. Living in the conditions that they live in, it’s good that it’s the only life they know, because if they knew another life, it would be impossible to live there.
Translator: what do you want to be when you grow up?
Children: I’ll become someone if I study.
A football champion. (Why?) Because I like to play.
I want to be a teacher when I grow up. (Why?) To teach other children.
Fernando Llorente: we’re going to play a game of football now. We have to first decide on the teams. The idea is to score goals. The winner is the team that scores more goals in the opposite goal. And you’re not allowed to kick each other.
Michael Robinson: Fernando, after this visit, do you believe we can look at the problems we face on a daily basis in another way?
Fernando Llorente: I will never forget this experience. When you experience something like this, I believe it makes you reflect on how privileged we are to live where we do, to breathe the air that we breathe.
Narrator: after an unforgettable trip, this phrase takes on a new meaning, for who said it and for what it said: “almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it.” Mahatma Gandhi said this.