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Friends use trip to World Cup as platform against family separations

Rene Neri, Pablo Casanova, and Ruben Craviot attended the 2018 World Cup and decided to spread a message in the process. (Libeth Morales)

It’s often said that sports just have a way of bringing people together.

In more cases than not, that way is through internet-assisted communities that bond over their love of a team. For friends Rene Neri, Pablo Casanova, and Ruben Cravioto, it was more literal.

The three avid soccer fans met up in Russia last week to take in the World Cup – Neri and Casanova came from Seattle, and Cravioto from Mexico. But they felt compelled to use the opportunity to make a statement.

With them, they brought signs reading “Families Belong Together,” in response to the reports of family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border. They asked passersby to take pictures with the signs.

“People around the world are shocked at what the Trump administration is doing to families, especially children,” Casanova told Yahoo Sports via email. “Rene and I live in Seattle, where being Mexican and/or immigrant feel very inclusive and safe. We thought it would be cool to take photos with fans from other countries who believed that families belong together.”

“My response has not political in intent, and my only wish is for conditions to improve for the undocumented,” Cravioto said.

“Living in the U.S. since age 16 and being part of an immigrant family the theme hits close to home,” Neri said. “In my lifetime there’s never been a more divisive administration when it comes to immigration among other topics. Being in Russia and having an opportunity to make a statement became important for me.”

“Families Belong Together” is in response to the reports of family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border. (Libeth Morales)

Given that the World Cup is such a melting pot of culture, coupled with the trio’s love of soccer, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to act.

“One of my goals, when I was a kid, was to play professionally and represent my team [Mexico] in a World Cup,” Casanova said. “Unfortunately that didn’t happen but going to a World Cup was always something I needed to experience as a first hand.” Cravioto echoed his reasoning. 

But it’s hard to enjoy such an extravagant event while atrocities are taking place back home.

“When we asked people from other countries to take photos with the sign, they happily agreed and knew about what is happening in the U.S.,” Casanova explained. “I know people that have been deported and taken back to the U.S., but I don’t know anybody that has been separated from their kids.”

Soccer fans from France, Nigeria, and, of course, Mexico agreed to take pictures, coming together for small but powerful displays of unity.

“Mexican fans liked the idea of participating in a cause like this, and the Nigerians asked us to include them in the pictures because of the positive message we were showing,” Cravioto said. “What I can say about my World Cup experience is that people like living with different nationalities, I did not see a single act of racism, they all lived together and enjoyed different cultures. It is clear to me that politicians are the ones who try to divide us and we cannot allow it.”

“There is nothing like family, and it makes me really sad and upset that a person/president separates people just because he has the power to do it,” Casanova said. 

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