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.🙂