Miami FC mascot Golazo has made more than 220 visits, reaching more than 5,250 students, to online school classes across Miami since the new initiative was launched on April 6. | Photo courtesy Miami FC
MIAMI – It’s an average day for online middle school class in Miami, with the students and their teacher interacting via web conferencing platform Zoom.
Then, the teacher makes an announcement.
“Class, we’ve got a special guest joining us today…”
And as if by magic, Miami FC mascot Golazo appears on the screen. He’s ready to entertain as well as put the students through an indoor workout to help them stay active while observing local stay-at-home guidance.
“We have experienced all types of reactions ranging from big smiles, to kids crying just because they got the chance to meet Golazo,” said Bruno Barbato, who serves as Golazo’s liaison as Miami FC’s Mascot Coordinator. “Being able to create a healthy positive environment for the kids in these tough times is our main goal.”
Golazo has been a fixture in Miami’s community for many years, participating in school visits regularly on behalf of the club. With that not currently an option, Barbato brought the idea of online visits to classes to Miami FC President Paul Dalglish last month, who quickly looked to tie it into the other initiatives the club is pursuing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I thought it was a fantastic idea,” said Dalglish. “My wife was a teacher when I met her and she still substitute teaches in schools, and I understand the online teaching and Zoom calls for the teachers is new to them, so for them to bring something into their classroom that keeps their younger children entertained and creates excitement for the Zoom calls, I knew it would be welcome.”
That said, the response to the initiative has been even greater than anyone at the club was expecting. Since launching on April 6, Golazo has visited with more than 220 classes and 5,250 students during the online sessions.
“We were confident that we created a great program,” said Barbato. “However, the outcome was definitely better than anything we could have imagined, and I am extremely happy that we could do something to help teachers and parents during these difficult times.”
The idea was indicative of the synergy Barbato and Golazo have. A longtime employee of the club, Barbato has always been full of ideas as to how Miami FC can connect with its community. A Miami native himself, there’s a sense of pride in doing everything he can to help lift up the club and the city in what he does for Miami FC.
“Connecting with the Miami community gives us the opportunity to show and educate everyone about this beautiful sport,” said Barbato. “As a community team, it is our duty to be out on the streets sharing the excitement of fútbol.”
It’s an energy that Dalglish and his colleagues definitely appreciate.
“Bruno is brilliant,” said Dalglish. “He works so hard, there’s not many people that work in football in America who genuinely love the club, but Bruno has been with us since almost the beginning and has been through the roller coaster with Miami FC the whole time. His dedication to the club is exceptional. He works so many hours in the community, and always has.
“My role 12 months ago was to make sure that we used his time more efficiently … and really concentrate on sweet spots, so when he came up with this idea, I was like, ‘this is exactly what the mascot of Miami FC would do.’ It’s exactly what the new identity of the club that we’re trying to put together needs and I’m so happy that the rewards he’s getting now from his hard work are being seen.”