The Interline English programme has been bringing students from Spain and Italy to the County Waterford seaside resort for the past eleven years. The scheme is run by Joseph Arthurs, who is originally from Malahide but has been living in Madrid for the past four decades.
At present some 240 students are staying with local families in Tramore: around 200 are Spanish, the rest Italian. Aged 10 to 18 years, most of them are from the Madrid region, but Barcelona was also represented amongst those rejoicing last weekend.
Local mini-bus operator Peter Smith says the students provide a huge boost to the local economy each year, estimating it to be worth “€250,000 minimum. It’s a great fillip for Tramore and I can’t speak highly enough about them,” he says. “They love the place and can’t wait to come back.”
While here the Spanish youngsters use local amenities such as Splashworld, the T-Bay Surf Club, Lake Tour Stables, the Kingfisher sports complex, Waterford Crystal leisure centre and many others.
Of course there’s also a boon for local businesses such as shops and cafés, and various facilities in Tramore and its environs are rented out.
After their extra-time victory over the Netherlands in Johannesburg, the students gathered at Tramore beach on Sunday night for an impromptu swim in the sea – despite the rain!
Needless to say the Spanish kids are soccer-mad, with matches against other nationalities and locals always an enjoyable feature of their stays. This year they’ve been using the Waterford Crystal pitch for tournaments, while following their heroes’ fortunes in South Africa on television. Indeed, the son of José Antonio Grande, assistant to Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque, has been to Tramore a number of times.
As well as enjoying themselves and taking in the tourism sights during their four weeks here (from late June to late July), the main purpose for their visits is, of course, to learn English, using local teachers and Stella Maris secondary school. They all undertake exams before going back home and the experience has clearly been beneficial in terms of learning the language.
While one wonders what they make of Dunphy, Giles et al, it was certainly Après Match with a difference in Trá Mhór the other night!