To play in Nuoro is one more time something special and unforgettable. Sardinia is an island in the center of Mediterranean Sea, often unknown if not for a piece of land inhabited a few months a year by billionaires in yachts and private jets. For many years, Nuoro Softball is at the international stage to be able to organize - well-suited international benefits - up to now 21 in 24 years of history. In 2006 arrived Sandra Gouverneur from Holland, a great athlete from one of the strongest national teams in Europe. Since then she has been linked to Nuoro, Sardinia, to the people who welcome her as an athlete, then as a friend, and still love her. After years, Gouverneur always says "they were the most beautiful years of my career, it is my best holiday destination". Since then she had a dream, closed a brilliant career that she also was an Olympic athlete in 2008: back to Nuoro, as a coach, with her young athletes, in that city and among the people who remained in her heart.

A sport-cultural-tourist exchange, a dream-project started two years ago thanks to Gouverneur who contacts the president of Nuoro Softball, Totoni Sanna, and the two Cadets team coaches Simona Garau and Mayra Liori. A project realized in 2017, from August 26th to September 3rd, thanks to press officer of Nuoro Softball, Serenella Mele. "A few months ago - Serenella Mele said- president Sanna asked me to take care of the organizational phase, and the project immediately impressed me, a great opportunity to share sports, everyday life, to make our land known. "The first phase saw the cadets team of the "HERONS" (Heerhugowaard, Netherlands), by Sandra Gouverneur, Mirjam Soumokil and Wendy van der Putten, working for almost a year to put together enough euros to fly to Sardinia.

"The Herons planned their trip far ahead - said Serenella Mele - we had decided to welcome young athletes and their staff to our families, live our lives, share our lives for a week. The search for host families was been difficult, many doubts, they asked me "but we will be able to accommodate foreign girls so young?". So I had the idea, after completing the families list, to connect the family with the athlete: a first contact, even virtual, to get to know each other. Then the families with me, friends-shadow with Dutch and Italian athletes: a river of questions, smiling smileys, and those "I can’t wait to meet you", often wrote. Who are the friends-shadow? A daughter or a son, who in every host family, accompanied the Dutch guest during the week in Sardinia, for every need. The English language once again became universal language, but sometimes a few Italian words could be learned.

The Herons arrived at Olbia's "Costa Smeralda" airport on August 26th, on a hot summer afternoon, welcomed by a representation of our team with a basket of fruit and sweets wrapped in by the Dutch flag. Shy, the very young Dutch, and hit by our surprise presence.

The arrival at Campo "Francesco Sanna", among the host families, was the beginning of a sport and friendship beautiful experience: welcome, presentation of athletes and staff to host families, the first sharing of food, music, dancing in the square, ice cream altogether. The program was taken care of in details (attached you can see it): family life, sports life, knowledge of softball for host families (only 5 out of 11 families were our athletes), participation in cultural events as guests, sightseeing tours.

I wanted to space, to let the Dutch friends in Sardinia live and feel like daughters, friends, athletes. The first day, after the arrival, guests honor of our Mayor in VIP stand for a magnificent Sardinian parade of traditional costumes: the most important festival of the year for the city of Nuoro; then finally played, with national hymns and flags, exchange of gifts. The smiles were more and more open and sincere, there were no opponents, but young athletes who loved the same sport, they wanted to have fun and make friends, break the walls and distances, boundaries, make bridges of peace, welcome and share everything in the respect of different ideas and habits.

We lived inside the island, playing in Nuoro and Orgosolo, but also an unforgettable little cruise to the sea, the challenges on the field without taking too much into the result, appreciating the great talent of the Dutch team. Strong friendships were born, of course: they were not strangers in our homes, but a daughter for a few days, a friend forever.

I invented the "Peace Team" for a game vs Herons: a team where they played in their own uniform, Nuoro, Orgosolo, Iglesias: thanks to the support of the coaches of three important Sardinian softball teams cadets.

We knew well that on the day of their departure, September 2nd, they would be hugs and tears, between "goodbye" and "see you soon, write me, come every time you want."

The Herons arrived in Nuoro to play softball, make some excursions, now are part of our lives, the sport has allowed the creation of a beautiful project once again brought the world to Nuoro, and will bring Nuoro to the world.

We will never thank the host families enough!

The second phase will see Nuoro Softball cadets flying to Holland next year, hosting an International Tournament for 50 years from the foundation of the Herons.

There are still strong points, common goals: cultural exchange through softball, respect, friendship, peace, fraternity; along with the desire to repeat this kind of experience with other federations as well.

I wish everyone, to live weeks like the one we lived in Nuoro: the world would be better.

Thank you HERONS, thank you NUORO SOFTBALL, thank you SARDINIA .

Serenella Mele
Press officer Nuoro Softball 2017