Ever since my son had been diagnosed with leukaemia I had been looking forward to the Maratona – which is surprising since I am not all that keen on football.
But the Maratona is much much more than football. The football is the main thing of course. And it is a superhuman feat to get all those teams organised to play round the clock, taking bookings from months before and then watching them all turn up, smoothing out the inevitable hitches and trying to keep smiling.
But for us parents the Maratona is a stepping stone which tells you you that after the shock of diagnosis, after months of anxiety and going to hospital sometimes day in day out, life goes on. For those of us who shut ourselves away for weeks and months even when we didn’t have to, this is a ‘coming out’. Suddenly there are lots of people everywhere, noise and activity, but still a sense of familiarity. Playing home as it were. Watching our children play football, some of them for the first time for ages, a bit shaky at first, but playing. Taking photographs. Being normal. And then getting a bit of special treatment and getting to play with the incredible and affable Buffon, which feels good too.
There is a huge sense of camaraderie behind the bar as nurses, children, spouses, parents weave in and out of each other serving the most amazing hot dogs and burgers (carefully prepared by Charlie), together with drinks, sweets, icecreams and hobzas. A logistical feat requiring months of planning, which on its own brought in about Lm5,000.
From behind the bar I could follow the interviews with various parents and medical staff being screened live on Channel22. It was surprising how much I didn’t know about childhood cancer – perhaps too afraid to ask – and how encouraging it was. At night a different crowd turns up and the entertainers get going. Comedians, established stars, some new talent, all of them did their bit to give more zest to the whole occasion.
Yes, the Maratona was a huge success. From the moment it kicked off, when a little girl holding a nun’s hand suddenly let go and wrapped herself round the Archbishop’s waist, to the clearing up at the end, to the totting up of the exceptional total of Lm70,000 plus, the Maratona was true to the aims of Puttinu – improving the quality of life of patients and their families – in every way.