The Californian city of Los Angeles will host the first US stage of the Pelota de Trapo Program, which promotes civic participation in local communities through sport.
By Christopher Wells
Scholas Occurentes, an International Organization of Pontifical Right aimed at creating and promoting the culture of encounter, has announced the US launch of the Pelota de Trapo Program in Los Angeles.
The Program is named for the humble rag balls used by poor children around the world for their soccer games. Pope Francis himself played football with a pelota de trapo as a young boy; later, seeing children playing with the makeshift balls inspired Pope Francis to develop the Program internationally.
In a press release issued on Tuesday, Scholas noted that the United States now joins Argentina, Italy, Mozambique, and Spain in hosting the program.
Los Angeles was personally chosen by Pope Francis as the first US city to take part in the program.
The Holy Father noted that Los Angeles “will become a kind of worldwide capital of sport” by hosting several major sporting events over the next few years, culminating in the 2028 Olympic Games.
Inspiring young people
The Program will be undertaken in collaboration with the LA84 Foundation, which supports youth sport and public education about the role of sports in positive youth development.
Announcing the Pelota de Trapo Program, LA84 President Renata Simril said, “Pope Francis advocates for unity and inclusion, and his Pelota de Trapo Program will use the power of sports to inspire young people in our communities to live like we play.”
“Our mission is to ensure all kids have opportunities for inclusion and access to the lifelong benefits that sports and play provide.”
The County and City of Los Angeles are also supporting the Program, with LA County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, saying, “Los Angeles County excitedly welcomes Scholas and the Pelota de Trapo education initiative to our region to cultivate leadership, civic engagement, and opportunities for encounter for young people through a love of sports and play.”
According to Tuesday’s press release, the Pelota de Trapo Program aims at “engaging a minimum of 30 schools annually, building a network of teachers, establishing a virtual platform for increased engagement, and producing a volunteer program for collaboration with families, youth sports teams and partner organizations for support and increased growth.”