The three recipients of the first Prize of the FIFA/CIES International University Network completed their reward trip to Switzerland at the end of March. Laura Macchiotti, Evangelina Tosello and María Teresita Axmann – from the Universidad Católica Argentina in Buenos Aires – had thereby the opportunity to visit the CIES Headquarters in Neuchatel, to present their project to the FIFA Master students and to go to the Home of Football, where they received a diploma from the Presidents of FIFA and of CIES in person. In a more “relaxed” context, they attended a football game between the FIFA Staff and the FIFA Master students - which ended up with the victory of the latter – and had a few tourist tours… not to mention the inevitable shopping trips.

Laura and Teresita share with us below some of their thoughts and memories about their short but intense stay.

How did you, your family and friends react when you learned that you had been awarded the Network Prize and passed the good news on to them?
Laura: Sport and social subjects occupy very important places in my life. I have put all my heart into this project. I have very much appreciated all phases of research and elaboration. Saying that I was certain to win this prize would clearly be a symptom of immodesty. However, I strongly believed in our success, because of all the effort we have invested in it and of the opportunities inherent in the practical application of resilience. If only one child were to benefit from our efforts, we would be well rewarded. As far as my relatives, especially my children – are concerned, they are proud, because of the prestige attached to this Prize. My oldest son wrote to me: “We wish you much luck. We are proud of you. You are an example for me when I think of all the energy which you have shown in your life.”

Teresita: What strong emotions and happiness. I have to admit that on the day the jury met to decide I was constantly connected to the CIES Network Website, eagerly awaiting the latest news…which I received the following day. I informed my family and all my friends at once. My children were as happy in themselves as they were for me, because this Prize means a lot. In fact, they have supported me for the entire duration of the UCA/FIFA/CIES Programme right up to the completion of the project. I also have to emphasize the strong impact this news has had for the students and teachers of all editions of the Programme Via telephone calls and e-mails, we received not only congratulations, but also offers of co-operation to carry out the project. I even had a phone call from the mother of one of the students who was interested in logotherapy and resilience and wanted to provide us with her help. In brief: the telephone did not stop ringing. Incredible, but true! The Prize has also an important significance. The Network is a generator of opportunities, both in academic and professional terms. It also promotes contacts among students of the Network. They all await news of our great adventure!

What does the Network Prize mean to you?
Laura: Besides great recognition, the Prize stands for a commitment to carry on with our work in order to be up to the level of the CIES, the FIFA and the UCA, which is indeed not an easy task!

Teresita: Personally, I think it is synonymous of a quantum leap in my professional career, of a direction towards other types of research, and other work opportunities. It also means a more intensive commitment for the development and the accomplishment of a project that has a great potential. This is our greatest challenge!

What do you think of the International FIFA/CIES Network?
Laura: For me, it is the key that can open countless doors. It offers great opportunities.

Teresita: The Network offers an excellent Programme. It is innovative, in that it is based on two pillars: diversity and group work. This makes all the difference! I believe that it is very important to go more thoroughly into these two aspects, and to come up with activities that promote the formation of links between all those who participate in the Network, namely: Universities, lecturers, students, etc. The aim is to build a “strong feeling of being a part of something important.”

How did the FIFA Master students react when you presented your work?
Laura: They showed great interest in it…and we were overwhelmed by the number of their questions…

Teresita: They really were very interested. This was evident from the amount of time they took to prepare their questions, every one of which enriched and encouraged the continuation of our work. The knowledge of this new trend, that is resilience, attracted much attention and surprised a lot of people. It also presents a new perspective, I believe. To give you a personal anecdote: at the end of the football match against the FIFA team, I came up to one of the Master students to congratulate him. He replied to me: “That’s because of the resilience! We made use of our power and our positive outlook, both as individual players and as a team.” I was delighted by this answer and said to myself: “Mission accomplished!”

And what do you think of them?
Laura: Intelligent, that is for sure. They are very competitive, have a strong determination to succeed, and are very well educated.

Teresita: Honestly, they made an excellent impression on me: young and thirsty for knowledge. They looked happy and proud of what they were doing. I very much liked the homogeneity of the class. That was a source of enrichment. Moreover, they were very friendly with us. They did not forget to congratulate us for winning the Network Prize. In brief, we had the pleasure to share the results of our work as well as to visit FIFA headquarters together.

Is it important to develop and reinforce the connections with the FIFA Master?
Laura: That’s obviously very important. As I have already mentioned at one of our meals, it would be very interesting to organise meetings between Master students and those of the Network on the occasion of a sporting event. Why not at the Olympic Games? We could organise a forum and discuss academic and business matters in a sporting atmosphere. That most probably would open up many new perspectives for the participants.

Teresita: I agree with Laura’s idea. I believe that the Master students have much to give to the Network members. In particular their knowledge, their professional experience, and what they did during the Master. Being under the same roof promotes the advantage of learning in a different way.

What impression did the Home of Football leave on you?
Laura: Profound, as does everything that relates to football. I could not fully understand what strong feelings such a visit could stir up until I was on site.

Teresita: It’s an incredible place. It intimidates you when you get close to it. It inspires respect. To have visited the headquarters of FIFA has been a unique experience. It mirrors the whole world. There is something magical around every corner: the stairs, the gardens, the offices. Above all, to meet such an international staff gave me a feeling of hope and unity! On the bus that took us to Zurich I could see the Master students preparing themselves for the occasion: straightening their ties or touching up their makeup. Simple evidences of the respect and admiration of the institution. The FIFA President even took the time to find out the meaning of the word “resilience”. I was almost moved to tears! How proud I felt when he said: “Thank you for that wonderful opportunity to meet each other.”

And the match between the FIFA Master and the FIFA team? A highlight?
Laura: Very entertaining. And what a top goalkeeper the FIFA Master team had! I believe that this has been an excellent opportunity to strengthen the links between students, whether they were running on the pitch or sitting on the sidelines supporting their team. On the FIFA staff side, they are lucky to combine their work in the sport field - that is their passion – with the possibility to play it on the field. I only can tell them: “I am jealous of you!”

Teresita:  The Master students were all first-rate. They have hit the jackpot: playing against FIFA on their own ground and winning. I must add that the FIFA team fought very hard until the very end of the match! The students made use of all their assets in order to win: their football kits, the cheerleaders dressed just as the players, the photo reports, and their tactics. They really enjoyed playing. Every goal was a reason to celebrate. In the locker room one could hear the players shouting as if they had just won in an international fixture!

In a few words, what were the key moments of your visit to Switzerland?
Laura: A moment? What first comes to my mind is the picture taken with the FIFA President  and the CIES President at the graduation ceremony. But I cannot speak of a single key moment, because this week in Switzerland has really been extraordinary! We have been treated like queens, really!

Teresita: The picture on which we were all together in the FIFA auditorium, with Mr. Blatter, Mr. Reeb, Mariano, Vincent and Pierre… On the other hand, every moment has been unique. My heartfelt thanks to all who made this opportunity real and to all those with whom we made this great journey!

And Switzerland?
Laura: An amazing country for its beauty, its order, its education and its inhabitants.

Teresita: I only can repeat Laura’s words; an extraordinary country!