Interview: Soccer is a passion between rivals, not enemies

We share the project that led thousands of fans to understand that soccer is a sport to experience with peace and joy.

Fans bumping fists during a celebration

Mauro Martínez seeks through his project, to use football as a tool to carry a message to the people. / Photo: Rawpixel

LatinAmerican Post | Thomas Handley

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Leer en español: Entrevista: el fútbol es una pasión entre rivales, no enemigos

Soccer unites passions, and with the start of the South American 2020 FIFA World Cup qualification, we look for an example of this. Thus we meet Mauro Martínez Beloqui and his Futbol Traveler, with whom he carries out the “Rival Hug” campaign. We contacted him to talk about his project to use this beautiful sport as a tool to carry an inspiring message for people.

How and when was Futbol Traveler born?

“It was born from the idea of two close friends. They saw me charismatic in front of the cameras and the social media and they suggested that I should put together a thematic Instagram page. What better idea than to make it about soccer, one of my greatest passions? So I decided to share my experiences, and I traveled with another great friend to Barcelona, that was the first trip of the project. I never imagined that all that I have lived with it was going to happen ”.

What does the hashtag #rivalhug mean to you?

“Long story short, a resounding change in my life and the way I see football. I used it throughout the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It coincided with a FIFA campaign, which I did not know at the moment, but at the same time it had a lot to do with this change in me, leaving behind all madness and anger that is often mistaken for passion in the sport. It is the #rivalhug. Its objective is to show that football does not go beyond what happens on the field. There, we are rivals, but not enemies. Off the pitch, it should always be pure joy. "

On his page, and following the concept of his hashtag, Martínez Beloqui wanted to go further and propose a tacit peace agreement between rivals ooutside the field. Breaking all language and cultural barriers, he proposed to swipe shirts between the fans. He gave one of his own from Argentina, and received other fan's shirt. Once the FIFA World Cup was over, he continued with this idea, looking for local fans of rival teams.


Una publicación compartida por Maurovi Martínez Beloqui (@futboltraveler) el


What is the reaction of the fans when you propose to swipe their shirts?

"I'm not going to lie to you, many times it is difficult . The first answer is usually "no". But I do not stay with that answer and insist. I explain what the purpose is, the message we want to give with this, and it has a good effect. Many more people than expected end up accepting. There are also people who keep saying that they would never wear a classic rival shirt, like friends and even my own brother (laughs). It is not that he lives football in a violent way, but he maintains that rivalry folklore and still does not understand the message I want to convey ”.

What was the most significant t-shirt exchange for you?

“I always have the same answer to this question. The most important anecdote for me was with an Arab, in Saint Petersburg. When I proposed it to him, he couldn't believe it and he was already taking off his shirt. I had to stop him so I can start recording and making the video of the exchange first. When he finished, he told me 'I hope Argentina will be world champion. Messi deserves it . ' I'm never going to forget that."

And the most significant match or moment with the #rivalhug campaign?

“Although I couldn't go in to watch the game, I went to the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid in 2019. It was played by two English teams, Liverpool and Tottenham, and it was full of fans outside the stadium. I was able to talk to fans of each team, parents and children who were fans of this different clubs, and even got two people to exchange shirts between them. If I had a ticket, I would have miss all that.


Una publicación compartida por Maurovi Martínez Beloqui (@futboltraveler) el

Mauro Martínez Beloqui, the Futbol Traveler, aspires to be present at the next FIFA World Cup, to be held in Qatar in 2022 . "Once you are in a World Cup, you want to be in all of them," he says. With the idea of bringing even more shirts to exchange than in 2018, he aims to continue transmitting the message that football face you against rivals, not enemies. An idea that breaks with the violent fanaticism that is often confused with passion.

Read also: Is the Argentine soccer quarry in decline?