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In a sports team, you always need someone who motivates the group, cheers them up, and gives encouraging instructions. That someone is Ivano.
Ivano is nine and a half years old, and he is a rugby player. His team is big, 25 kids. “Three to five players are not so good”, he says very seriously. “But the rest is great.”
He has been playing rugby for two years now. That is because his father is a rugby player as well. His father is number fifteen, which is super important in the game.
But actually, his father is ill now. He stays in bed a lot and his hands are shaking all the time. His father has difficulties cutting food, but Ivano is not allowed to help him. His father says Ivano is too young to use the kitchen knife. So sometimes they call Ivano’s sister for help. But she lives in the big city Zagreb with her boyfriend.
After school, Ivano often goes to the TOY for Inclusion Play Hub in his school building. Teacher Refika smiles softly at him when she says: “He is one of the most popular kids, everyone likes him.” It hasn’t always been like this. “I think I used to be naughty”, he says. “My father tried to teach me how to behave well, but actually, I mostly taught myself.” This is Ivano’s trick: he offers advice to other kids on how to play the games. It works, it’s how he made a lot of new friends.
Sometimes he brings a board game to his mother’s house, but to play their favorite game they only need a broken laptop. It’s a make-believe game in which they pretend to be bank clerks. That’s not his mom’s real job, though. She works as a bartender, often ‘till very late. Ivano has been to that bar many times. He watches his mother or helps her out. Putting cream in the coffee, he sure feels like a real bartender. But he has to admit he cannot imagine himself doing that job for real. It’s always ‘hurry, hurry’ – and then you spill the coffee.
No, Ivano wants to become a teacher. He wants to give assignments, just like Refika. And if a student doesn’t know how to solve them, Ivano will come and help. Just like Refika.
Tomorrow Ivano will play a tournament far away outside of town. It will be the first time ever he spends a night away from home. Of course, he is not nervous – just excited, because he will be sleeping in a hotel. He has packed his bag already. “I just need to add some sandwiches and juice for the trip”, he says with this wise gaze of his. Refika wishes him good luck for the match. Before he leaves, she slips five cereal bars in his bag.