First day with the kids – An Amazing Day

Tuesday the 11th of May 2010 – 23.07h

Yesterday I started my first day of work on the programme I am part of. As soon as I arrived in Cape Town I was told that the original programme I had booked myself in for was cancelled and therefore I would be working on a different programme which also involved coaching children football.

The original programme involved going on the streets of Cape Town, most probably the Town Ships (what they call the slums here) looking for homeless children and trying to convince them to join a football team that I would eventually be coaching. I was disappointed when I was told that this programme has since been cancelled as it sounded very interesting and rewarding.

The new programme I am part of involves visiting schools and taking their “Physical Education” lesson, which involves playing football. This meant that along with the other volunteers (Gabriel and Ronaldo) we would be travelling from one school to another coaching little children football. Although it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting it still sounded very appealing.

The moment arrived. We drove into the car park of the first school we would be coaching, which was also the playground where the children spent their lunch break. I soon realised this because as soon as we got to the school, the children were on their lunch break, running around in their school uniform like headless chickens. I couldn’t help but notice that all the kids looking really happy just to be running around shoving into one another.

I was holding a bag of about 10 footballs as we got out of the car. That was it. As soon as the kids saw us arrive, with footballs, we got surrounded. The first moment was a little bit of a shock. What do I say to all these kids who are trying to grab the balls from me, whilst pushing and shoving each other and shouting things at me in English, that I could barely understand. They have a South African accent but use what I presume are more “slang” words which takes time to get used to.

I was surrounded by about twenty boys aged between 6 and 13 all of whom were shouting different things at me at once and looking at me expecting a response. Here are some of the things I could grasp:

“Are you going to be our coach?”
“What is your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“Who do you play for?”

What do I tell the children? My name is Dani and I play for Flahertys, an Irish pub team in Barcelona? With all the questions at one go and me trying to fire the answers back, one of the boys understood that I played for Barcelona (not that I lived in Barcelona). The word got round and we had even more children coming up to us looking amazed.

“Coach, do you play for Barcelona?”
“What is your name?” (probably wondering to see if they had actually heard of the player they were currently talking to)

I couldn’t resist but keep the story going and they looked astounded. To think that they were meeting a professional football player and this professional player would be coaching them to play football! As well as them asking me about Barcelona I also had children shouting different players names and teams at me…”Rooney, Torres, Drogba, Messi, Manchester, Chelsea, Arsenal” obviously trying to let us know that they are well aware of the teams and players that dominate our football world.

Once their lunch time was over it was time for the coaching to begin. It was something that I really felt at home with and enjoyed thoroughly. I live and breathe football and found myself surrounded by 20 boys all listening to what I had to say. I started by getting them to do a warm up, we then did some exercise drills trying to get them to practice their control, passing and communication between one another. Once this was over we started a football match, and to avoid them all running after the ball (something which is natural at their age and hard to avoid) I tried to get them to play in certain positions. I felt like a fish at sea coaching these little children my knowledge of football.

I was amazed by the children. I could tell that some children had discipline problems, misbehaving, but in general they were all very well behaved listening to what I had to say. I was also very surprised by the commitment the boys gave when playing the football match. They showed real spirit and courage diving in for the ball as if they were playing a World Cup final.

Thinking back now I can definitely relate the way they played football with the upbringing they have probably had. Watching the commitment these boys showed on the pitch and comparing it with the “pre-madonna” football players nowadays has no comparison. These little boys were playing football in their school uniform and shoes (they have no kit or boots), kicking lumps out of each other and diving in for the ball as if their life depended on that tackle and then getting straight back up ready for the next challenge. Amazing!

On a side note, there were a couple of incidents of boys “play-acting” which I can only assume they get from watching the professional players on television. There was an incident with one boy who went in for a tackle and stayed on the floor clutching his foot and rolling around the ground pretending to be in pain, I could tell straight away. As soon as I told him that I think he broke his leg he soon got up in a hurry running after the ball again.

There was another boy who kept on spitting on the ground every two minutes, which is something else that he has probably seen his cult-heroes do on TV. It just goes to shows that the Rooney’s, Drogba’s and Messi’s in our world are not just football players, they are role-models looked up to by thousands of children around the world.

Football is not just a sport, as well as many other thing (like a religion for many people) it is a mechanism which enables children to show respect to one another, enhance their communication skills and understand the real values of life (as well as keeping them fit and healthy and out of trouble).

A truly enjoyable day. 🙂



Filed under Africa

18 responses to “First day with the kids – An Amazing Day

  1. Edu

    Again, amazing post Dani. I really enjoy reading your adventures 🙂 You are doing a really good job, keep it up!

  2. Oh!! I was waiting for this post!! Haha you love making up stories, liar 😉
    btw, I might have huge news in 2 weeks time, fingers crossed! Take care brownstone!

  3. Ruth Brown

    Hi Dan
    It sounds like you had a great day So glad things are going well !!! lots of love
    Aunti Ruth XXXX

  4. rubymaylove stone

    My goodness the way you write is just as gripping as reading it from a book.
    You write so 3 dimentional that i feel i am watching you on a tv screen, i cant wait to see how these children will be in a few weeks let alone when you leave…. gosh i want to ask you so many questions,they might sound silly but hey here goes…. Will you be seeing these kids again?, Is there many schools there? Are they boy only schools? Are the teachers all black? and what do there lunches consist of?.
    Looking forward to your next post,love you lots my wonderful and a amazing nephew. X

  5. Ronnie

    That was really enjoyable reading and that is coming from somebody who doesn’t like reading!!Enjoy and treasure the experience.Big big hug,

  6. Rafa

    Hey Dani!! I am very glad to read you, we have been so busy that today was the first day I had the chance to really read your posts!

    It sounds amazing all you are living! I am very glad for you lad!

    go on writing and enjoying! we miss you here 🙂


  7. marichu

    Hello my lovely one!!
    As you can see you have a crowd that follows your adventures as avidly as me!!!
    Today i watched the film invictus (i am reading anything and everything to do with S. Africa as well) It keeps me close to you and the enviorement you are in.
    I thought the film was amazing, that God put us in this planet with talents we hardly use and that equality should be a basic right to all humans. Sometimes one unusual individual breaks the mold and accomplishes the unexpected…… I see you as a good candidate you have all the ingredients, the determination inspiration, strength and energy to accomplish it.
    take care my lovely
    love u zillionsxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxmama

  8. Have some news, will tell you on Monday, when all should be arranged.
    I miss you here big one.

  9. Philip Shorten

    A great post – it’s excellent to be kept updated with what you’re up to !! I had a little chuckle at the fact that you’ve now become a pro at Barcelona…ha, ha….similar to the “I’m Dani Stone, I’m Spanish and I play for the football team” lines that were used all too often at Lancaster. Sounds like you’re having a fanastic time. Look forward to the next update man – take care & speak to you soon.

  10. In my flight Menorca-Barcelona last night (2 hours delay) I read an article about South Africa from the top-notch men’s magazine Esquire (I kept it, so you can read it when you come back) and today I read this in the Guardian ( You are in the most famous country in the world right now!

    I still have no news, but my boss wants to talk with me because I may become a member of the Literary Dpt!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (I would be way happier!)

    Write soon 🙂

  11. Philip Brincat

    Hi Daniel, I would just like to let you know that I too am following your story. I am also reading it out to my almost 11 year old Ben. He too is enjoying your story.

    I think that what you are doing is fantastic. I wish I had the balls to do something similar when I was your age. I am sure that this is a lifechanging experience not just for you, but for all the people that you are about to meet, including the up and coming footballers. Best wishes Dani.

  12. Stone, que envidia más sana me estás dando tio 😉
    Sigue compartiendo tu aventura y aprovéchala al máximo.

    Un abrazo.

  13. anais

    hi big bro,,, glad ur having the time of ur life.. this blog made me laugh alot (kids thinking you are a barca player and you going along with it) yes not long till im bk in england now.. i went for a short break and got stuck there for another 4days because of the ash cloud but managed to get back safely! a few friends arrived from england today and just as they got off the aerobus they got robbed with all their holiday money, blackberry phone, ipod everything so abit pissed off for them but apart from that all is well… miss u and hope ur taking care.. looking foward to reading your next news!!!! x

  14. It has just arrived. It’s a nice edition. I’ll read it before you come back (if I have time to read books I want, not books I’ve to read for work, something impossible lately).

  15. Hi Auntie, thanks for the compliments and am glad your are enjoying the blog. Regarding your questions, here are some answers but hopefully I will be answering them in detail in the coming posts. I see the kids I am coaching twice a week, once a week to coach them and once a week to referee a match they play,. I am coaching at about 9 schools at the moment. There are loads of schools here which is really good to see. All the schools I have been to so far are mixed, boys and girls. Teachers are also mixed, there are white teachers and black teachers and they are all very grateful that we are spending time trying to help them out. I am not too sure about their lunches but I have seen quite a lot of children running around with a sandwich in their hands. Hope all is well back home auntie. Speak to you soon.

    Hey Rafa, I hope you haven’t been snowed under with too much work and everything is going smoothly. As you can see I am really enjoying it out here. Some days are really difficult with the kids but it is a great experience. Take care of yourself my friend and I will see you when I get back to Barcelona.

    Hey Haza, you know me too well! Got to keep my little stories going! I nearly got into trouble with the kids when they started asking me to do Ronaldinho skills! ha ha Glad you are keeping an eye on the blog man. Will try and keep updating as much as possible. Take care old bean.

    Hi Philip, thank you very much for your comment and I am very happy to see that you are also getting Ben involved too. It gives me great pleasure to read your comment and motivation to continue updating as much as I can. I hope all is great back in Malta. Keep in touch and take care.

    Rodri, campeón! Gracias por el comentario. Ya han pasado casi tres semanas desde que estoy aquí y es una sensación extraña. Por un lado parece que llevo aquí ya mucho tiempo y a la vez también parece ayer que estuve en la oficina con todos vosotros! Espero que todo bien por allí y que no estáis todos demasiado estresados. Un abrazo.

    Hi Ana, sorry to hear that about your friends. You haven’t had much luck in Barcelona with all the robbers around. Make sure you keep your bag close to you at all times and if any guy does come near you be ready to give him a good kick in the balls. Miss you too Ans. Look after yourself.

  16. Solveig


    Nos tienes hipnotizados con tus posts… Sigue así!

    Cuídate mucho, un beso fuerte!!


  17. Muchas gracias por el comentario Sol!

    Supongo que ya pronto estas de vacaciones, disfruta por alli guapa.

    un beso.

  18. I really enjoy reading you!
    However, this time you lied: you want me to believe the kids know that “Arsenal” is a football team? 🙂 🙂
    Big hug my friend!

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