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the art of making possible what seems impossible and a project that does not stop growing

The AVEFA Open 2022 is a tennis tournament adapted for people with acute visual impairment which is carried out in the neighborhood association of the same name. this wednesday morning Jose Viera was crowned champion of the contest after beating Roberto Masotta 7-9, 6-4 and 7-5. It was an exciting final that lasted more than two hours and was broadcast on the Instagram of the school that has organized the tournament since 2018: Full Tennis Argentina.

José and Roberto are two of the greatest exponents of the country. They excel in an activity that is still flourishing. Back in 2013, they took their first steps under the tutelage of Professor Gaston Labaronie, one of the pioneers of the activity in Argentina. Almost a decade later, the tournament found them as finalists.

Labaronie is in charge of Full Tennis Argentina, a school that works in the Florentino Ameghino Neighborhood Civil Association (AVEFA), founded in 1985 by residents of Boedo. He has been teaching there for four years and it seems that he has found his place in the world.

Gastón Labaronnie (right) and his students from Full Tenis Argentina. Photo: Instagram.

In dialogue with Clarion, Gastón did not hold back praise for one of his former students. “Roberto Masotta is number one in Argentina. Every time a tournament is held he wins it or reaches the final,” he says proudly.

The foundational seed of all this was planted in 2012, when he moved from Trenque Lauquen, where he taught on his private court, to the Federal Capital in search of new horizons. “I was very green, there was a lot of trial and error,” he confesses about that stage. But over time he found a way in which “a blind man can play tennis well and fast.” He had to convert. Learn to be able to teach.

The road was not easy, but the setbacks at the beginning helped him to train. “The first thing I tried to do was paint a picture from the oral. But I went beyond text. Then I learned to simplify. For me, mistakes were necessary. Trial and error. And based on the results,” he says.

It also had to adapt to people and types of blindness. “Because someone who is blind from birth is not the same as someone who has acquired blindness. That’s where another world opened up for me,” she adds.

In 2012 this adventure began, that of teach tennis to people who can’t see. His first steps were taken at Caballito and then, in 2018, he arrived at AVEFA. “It is an exemplary community“Gastón says about this place. Starting from scratch is not easy, especially in an activity where the path is made by walking.

AVEFA, an exemplary community

“If you saw the first images,” he recalls with a smile. “We had a hanging volleyball net with two fallen chairs, the worst possible hours, chaos. We began to accommodate ourselves there and little by little we grew,” she adds.

Time put things in order and they managed to generate a team of teachers and students that remains with the years. “Now we are a pretty big team. We are a family, a community“, says Gastón. The pride he feels for being part of this project is immense. A second home.

At AVEFA, in addition to the tennis classes for people with acute visual impairment given by Labaronnie, you can do soccer, boxing, gymnastics, yoga, Zumba and other activities. A meeting point where the community puts its best.

“If we have a tournament, old friends come. If I send ‘there is a tournament on that date,’ everyone raises their hands to participate. There is a mother of a family who at first took the children so that they could live the experience and collaborate. And now she comes in the morning, hangs out with us, takes bills. Something very nice was put together. It’s great. I find it hard to believe, he is very crazy. It fills me with pride,” says Gastón.

Full Tennis Argentina is the meeting point. Although the first AVEFA Open was in 2018, the foundational seed was planted by Gastón in 2012, when he left his hometown to come to the concrete jungle where he left behind the healthy habit of napping.

“I put the ‘Open’ behind every tournament I do,” he confesses with a laugh. He also comments that the Argentine Tennis Association accompanies, but little. Without state funding and without charging their students a fee, they search for it as best they can. A lung project that bears fruit.

Some differences that can be observed in adapted tennis: the court is 12.80 by 6.10 meters. The lines are marked with a rope attached to the floor with tape. In addition, junior tennis rackets and sound foam balls that are 9 centimeters in diameter are used.

The project: grow in the country

“There are two Argentine players who went to the World Cup and were in the Top 10. Here they practiced with balls that didn’t bite, stuck, there was a lot of difference. But the level is very high,” confesses Labaronnie, who has his mind set on the future.

“Without this project, teaching tennis would give me little pleasure,” reflects Gastón. And he adds: “We maintain the school with a parallel idea: to mark the times of what we want it to be for the whole country. We are making, in some way, the first examples so that later on there will be many more“.

The project is clear: keep the flame of tennis for the blind burning in the country and illuminate this sport. His dream is to see more schools open all year round. “Ours is a fire that does not go out“, he confesses to this chronicler. At this point it seems that nothing and no one will be able to turn it off. Viera and Masotta are witnesses of it.

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