Argentine Ambassador to Barbados Gustavo Martinez Pandiani says the island will always hold a special place in his heart. This, as he bids farewell to the country that he has called home for the past three years.
The Barbados Football Association, led by president Randy Harris, last night hosted a well attended celebrity friendly game in honour of the ambassador who has been called home by his government and is expected to depart the island in a couple of days.
Following the match which was won 4-1 by the Roland Butcher-led Friends of Argentina team against the Friends of Barbados captained by Russell Latapy, Pandiani vowed that Barbados would always be in his heart.
Harris on behalf of the BFA thanked Pandiani for the opportunities he had afforded national footballers particularly the Barbados Under-17 national team which visited Argentina in 2018.
“Two and a half years ago before COVID-19, we had a Pandiani. I am speaking here about his Excellency Gustavo Pandiani, the ambassador of Argentina who has come to Barbados and made himself a part of our society here. The second he arrived in Barbados he contacted me and from there I would say I never believed in my life that I would be able to make a friend in two years.
“It was a pleasure having you here and I want to say that it was the first time any team from Barbados had an opportunity to visit one of football’s top teams in Argentina. We were able to go there and play with the Argentine Under-17 football team and that in itself was a great honour for footballers in places like Barbados,” Harris said.
Pandiani received several tokens of appreciation from the BFA last night during what was a touching farewell ceremony. He received a full Barbados national team kit and a plaque that Harris read, saying, “From the Barbados football fraternity to our unforgettable Argentine ambassador Gustavo Pandiani, October 18, 2020. Friends never say goodbye.”
Responding to all the kind gestures and all the love and support he has received from the Barbadian people, Pandiani said it was a
privilege, and honour and probably the happiest moments of his life for the past three years in Barbados.
“I feel today I shared time with my friends and family. I’ve been here for years without my daughters, without my family, but I felt for years I have a family (here). All of you, members of the press, the community, the government, everyone is part of my family.
“I am never going to forget about Barbados, Barbados will always be in my heart. And it is not only because of this game, but this game is also just the final gesture of a society that welcomed me and I feel part of it.
I don’t feel like a foreigner. I was part of your community and I will take it with me forever,” Pandiani said.
He added: “I think that my best recognition ever is from the people, the community. I had a great relationship with the government. I only represent my government through your government. I feel I represent my people through your people and in that sense, I think our peoples got together. We went to Argentina, we spent time with Bajans in Argentina and I spent time with Bajans in Barbados and that I believe is the most important accomplishment from my side. That I was able to be part of your hearts and you part of my heart.
“Of course, we need a lot of technical things. Co-operation projects to help your sports community, your farmers, your fishing community. But that is not the most important. What is most important is that our cultures are closer, your artists, your footballers, your netballers, boxers, all the sports community knows who is the ambassador of Argentina and we share the same sentiments.”
Pandiani who is looking forward to returning to Barbados someday soon even if it is for Crop Over, as he jokingly said, explained that the next step was the World Cup. He is hoping to cheer for his beloved Argentina and his second home Barbados at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar or the 2026 games scheduled for Canada, Mexico and the United States of America.
“I told Randy almost three years ago we are going to do it. Barbados is going to be in the World Cup even if it is not in this one, then the next one. You are making a lot of progress, you are working seriously, you have the best coach in the Caribbean in Russell Latapy who is a great coach.
“You have the talent, very good young talent, you need to develop a little more strategic type of training and once you do that you are going to be on the next roster of the World Cup,” Pandiani said.