A day I will never forget

Wednesday 30th of June 2010, 20.35

Yesterday is a day I will never forget, and for all the wrong reasons. I cannot recall having been through so many emotions in a single day…

7.15 – As my alarm went off I was excited for what I thought would be a thoroughly enjoyable day. Our work for the day with LifeZone consisted in taking about 50 children to the FanFest (setup in the centre of Cape Town for the World Cup) to play street soccer. We would be entertaining tourists and other South Africans who would be on a day out at the FanFest watching the World Cup games on a big screen. It would also be a great opportunity for LifeZone to do a little publicity and ensure those present in the FanFest are aware of the organisation and it’s efforts within the Cape Town community. Spain playing against Portugal in the final game of Round 16 would put the icing on the cake on a truly enjoyable day…or so I thought.

8.30 – Kennedy, our driver, drove us to the football field where we are coaching the children now that the schools are on holiday. Alex (another Brazilian volunteer on the same programme as me) and I met up with the other coaches and some of the children we would be taking with us to the FanFest. We waited for the rest of the children to arrive and after Jeremy Wyngaard(the organisation owner) said a little prayer asking God for all the children to return home safely, we made our way to the centre of Cape Town in a big minibus. Spending time with these children and doing these kind of activities really does remind me of my younger days when I was in their position, going on a day out to play football with my school or my Sunday league team. I get just as excited watching these children go through this experience as when I was in their position.

9.30 – We got to the FanFest. Jeremy had to sort out the paperwork with the security guards to ensure we would be allowed into the FanFest which was open to the public at 13.00. They allowed us in to practice a little before the public would make their way in. At this point we encountered our first mishap of the day. All the children were told to bring sandwiches for lunch as the food in the FanFest was too expensive for them as they do not have the necessary pocket money to be able to afford to buy food inside. We were then told by the security guards at the gate that they wouldn’t be allowing any of us to take any bags with food into the FanFest, not even the children (even though they were well aware of our situation). It says a lot about the type of organisation of the company behind these FanFests, FIFA. So, we reverted to Plan B. The children had to eat as much as they could before going into the FanFest to ensure they wouldn’t get hungry any time soon. All the bags with food would then be left in the LifeZone van that Jeremy had driven to get to the FanFest.

10.30 – Once in the FanFest, after being searched, the children could start playing football. The moment all us coaches and the children had been waiting for arrived. The only people in the FanFest at this moment in time were the security guards and other people working in the FanFest as the children played 5-a-side street soccer amongst themselves. I felt very proud to be part of the organisation watching how these children were showing their skills trying to impress.

11.26 – “Do you want to buy a ticket for tonight’s match?” I received this text message from Ronaldo, a fellow volunteer in the house. He was selling his ticket for the Spain – Portugal game as he was feeling ill. WOW! I was willing to pay a lot of money to watch this game. It is not everyday you get to watch your country play at the World Cup in the knock out stages and it really was a mouthwatering encounter, Spain against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. I replied saying I was interested. After having sent a few texts backwards and forwards and trying to decide where we would meet so that I could collect my ticket, Ronaldo decided he wasn’t sure if he wanted to sell his ticket anymore, he said he would let me know…

12.30 – Mishap number two. The children had been playing football in the FanFest for the past two hours. During these two hours of playing football, as one of the guys who works inside the FanFest walked past me, he mumbled something about us being lucky as it seemed to be raining everywhere in Cape Town apart from in the FanFest. A few minutes later it started to rain, pretty heavily. We had to find shelter as it really wasn’t safe for the children to play in those weather conditions. It didn’t seem like it would be disappearing any time soon.

12.57 – “Do you have Toby’s number? I gave him the ticket. Pay him today. Meet him in town, otherwise he will sell it. You owe me a really big one indeed, my friend”. Text message I got from Ronaldo…I would be going to the game. YES! I love these spur of the moment kind of things. I was so excited. I told Alex about the news as he also had a ticket for the game so we could go together after we had finished with the children in the FanFest after the Japan-Paraguay game. I was really looking forward to the game now.

14.00 – We were still unable to play football due to the weather conditions and it was time for food. As the children were not allowed to bring their food into the FanFest, the organisers decided they would provide us with food and drink. We all sat in a stand we had access to in front of the main stage where the FanFest big screen was situated as we scoffed down the pies we had been given for lunch. Due to the weather conditions, the FanFest was empty and we were ruing our luck at having chosen a rainy day to be in the FanFest. Jeremy was talking about organising another day out, possibly a World Cup semi-final day to try and be at the FanFest with the children on another occasion.

16.00 – It was still raining and we were still in the FanFest. It was time for the first game of the day to Kick-Off. By the time the game started there were only 9 boys left with us as all the others were bored and started getting agitated having to stay seated due to the rain. We arranged for the minibus to take those children that wanted to go home. Japan and Paraguay played a boring 0-0 game which Japan eventually ended up losing on penalties.

18.45 – As soon as the Japan game was over we had to quickly make our way to the LifeZone van where we had to collect Alex’s bag with our food and make our way to meet Toby to get my ticket. Toby said that if I wasn’t there by seven he would have to leave and give the ticket away as he was also going to the stadium and didn’t want to be late, so we really had to get a move on. We were running a little late as we had to gather all the children together. Jeremy decided to take us quickly to the van and the children would later catch up with the other coaches. As we got to the van I was in shock. The back window of the LifeZone van had been smashed in. As I looked in I could see two balls in the back of the van. As soon as I saw this I thought it was some yobs being stupid and decided to smash in the window for fun. The car was parked on a main street and it had been there all day in broad daylight. As people walked past us and watched us observing the van all I could hear them mutter was “Oh man”. I looked at Jeremy. He looked a little in shock but as if it was something he might expect. Jeremy is a man I really admire. He was a professional footballer playing in South Africa and decided to hang up his boots at a tender age of 28 (for a footballer) to focus on his community development organisation. He was very calm about the situation. My initial thought was the cost of having to get the window repaired. LifeZone is a Non-Profit-Organisation. They could really do without having these sort of expenses. As Jeremy looked inside the van to see if there was any further damage he looked over at us and told us that all the bags were gone. A couple of moments later all I heard was Alex say “my ticket”. I looked over at him and his head was in his hands. His ticket for the Portugal – Spain game was in his bag, that had been taken, as well as his credit card and glasses. He was distraught. He had paid 140 pounds for the ticket but it wasn’t about the money. Having a World Cup game taken away from you just before Kick-Off and in that manner is very hard to take. It is so many people’s dream to go and watch a World Cup game. Jeremy felt guilty, although it was not his fault at all he felt responsible. He was frantically calling anybody he knew who had any possibility of having a spare ticket for the game. It was impossible. As all of this was happening, the children arrived to the scene with Gaby and Jeremy Smith (the two other coaches). They looked just as surprised to see the window smashed as we did. I really do wonder what was going through their mind as soon as they saw this. Had they seen something similar before? Were they scared? I know I would have been petrified if I had seen something like that at their age. All their bags had been taken too. There was mainly food in their bags but some children had clothes and football boots too. They didn’t look bothered about their bags being stolen. They were just intrigued about the broken window and the glass that was smashed on the floor and inside the van. I couldn’t believe my eyes. A van with the words “You are the change” and “LifeZone” splattered all over it, obvious to all that the van belonged to a non-governmental-organisation, had its window smashed in, in broad daylight and on a main road and there was no sign of anything. No policemen about, just men and women with their children walking past nodding their heads. At this point I thought that there was no way I would be going to watch the Spain game. I then got a phone call from Toby. Toby works for You2africa, the organisation that organised my stay here in South Africa and got me onto the LifeZone project. I explained to him what happened and told him that I wasn’t sure if I could meet him or what time. He understood and said no problem, if I made my way towards him he would wait. Jeremy decided to call the police and told us to go as there wasn’t much we could do.

19.30 – Alex and I made our way to meet Toby. I was so gutted for Alex. The day started with him going to the game and me watching it in the FanFest and then it ended with me on my way to the game and Alex distraught. I didn’t know what to say to him. There was nothing I could say to him to make him feel better. I tried to support him as much as I could and get him to speak to try and get as much out of his system as possible. He spoke very little and just listened as I tried to make him feel better, unsuccessfully. We met Toby and I arranged a place where I would meet Alex after the game.

20.20 – I got inside the stadium with Toby, Deborah (his wife) and a friend of theirs just as the teams were coming out. Contrary to the other games I had been to, I had just made it on time for the national anthems. I was really in no mood to watch the match. I found myself in the Cape Town stadium subdued once again but for a completely different reason this time. I missed all the pre-match excitement and atmosphere. I was in the stadium watching my country play in the World Cup in the knock out stages and although I wanted to see my country win I wasn’t too bothered if I saw them lose. I was no way as nervous as I normally am if I am watching my team play in such an important match. When David Villa scored his goal I repeatedly shouted YES about four or five times. I was happy to see him score and when I cheered I noticed a hint of anger come out. I was relieved to be at the stadium to watch my country score (at half time, with the score 0-0, I was starting to think I was a jinx). It also enabled me to let off some steam which I had inside me after what I had just experienced a few moments earlier. Spain won the game 1-0. At the final whistle I was very happy to see us go through to the next stage of the World Cup.

22.45 – I made my way to the place where I had agreed I would meet Alex. He had that same cold look about him. I felt so sorry for him, I probably looked just as upset. We spoke briefly about the game, I asked if the goal was offside and if it really was a red card (they don’t show any of the dubious replays on the big screen in the stadium) and we made our way to the centre of town where we would meet our taxi driver. We got home, explained what had happened to the other volunteers in the house and by about half past midnight I got to bed, feeling the lowest I have felt since I have been here.

15 Comments

Filed under Africa

15 responses to “A day I will never forget

  1. There are no words to make you feel better and there’s nothing you can do about it but smile and make those children happy and proud of themselves.

    Cheer up. The sun will shine today and remember tomorrow is only a day away. You are a strong one, Dani!

    Just make those little ones laugh with your being silly and everything will worth it.

    I’ll see you in LONDON!🙂

  2. anais

    hi dan.. shit im so sorry to hear that.. poor guy!! i even feel uspet for him
    cant belive u got to the game tho…!! would b even better if u got an entrada for the one this sat!!! lets hope we win!!
    hope ur keeping safe love u xxx

  3. Twitter has developed a tool to help ONGs to promote themselves. http://hope140.org/

  4. Hey Dani, I was about to buy some books for your children. Where do I send them?

  5. Thanks for that Maria, will have a look at the Twitter application. Will send you the address by text, don’t have it with me here. Trying to upload some more pictures but the computer is going really slow. Speak soon.

    Hi Ana, when are you heading back to England?? Your time in Barcelona is coming to an end soon, hope you have no regrets and you have had the best time ever. Love you.

  6. Books:

    “Where the Wild Things Are”, Maurice Sendak
    Gift note: Let your imagination fly and life within the Wild things. Let the rumpus start!

    “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, Roald Dahl
    Gift note: Meet the best chocolate factory of the whole world!

    “Football Academy: The Real Thing”, Tom Palmer
    Gift note: More football in your lives.

    “The Hundred-Mile-an-Hour Dog”, Jeremy Strong
    Gift note: Run and laugh and get crazy with the most special dog of the universe!

    “The Suitcase Kid”, Jacqueline Wilson
    Gift note: Mulberry cottage! (Plus: revise the alphabet!)

    “Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang”, Mordecai Richler
    Gift note: I hope you will enjoy the adventures of Jacob just like I did.

    “Everything Kids’ Football Book: The All-Time Greats, Legendary Teams, Today’s Superstarsand Tips on Playing Like a Pro (Everything Kids Series) (Everything (Sports & Fitness))”, Greg Jacobs
    Gift note: Football, football and more football.

  7. Items dispatched. They’ll arrive in two parcels, I think. I’ve send you an e-mail with all the details, anway.

  8. anais

    hi dan, its my last day working today at the hotel.. its been an amazing experience and i have just had my final interview at the hotel… i think it went quite well as when i told them i will be coming back to barcelona to live they said to get in touch with them as soon as i step off the plane to get a job there!! so im pleased about that. i also won another restuarant voucher (like the one i won for papa and mama when they came to eat at the hotel) but this time at a different restuarant this time so will be nice to go try that.
    i leave barcelona tomorrow and i go to morroco on monday so will not be in much contact until i get back. i hope you are still enjoying yourself Dan and fingers crossed for the match tomorrow, unfortunatly i will be on the bloody plane. Today its been a very emotionable day at work saying bye to everyone and tomorrow will be even sadder saying bye to dave and everyone else!! and just knowing that the last 6months of my life have been the best and having to go back to a challanging and depressing year in england is not at all amusing!!
    Anyways Dan cant wait to see you now love you lots xxxx

  9. marichu

    Hello my sweet one
    We saw the pictures and it seems you are having great fun coaching those kids… you will make a great dad one day!!!
    Here things are getting a little busier as I have more classes now and trying to fit everything and having fun…. it´s not always possible.
    We are very excited for tnite´s match and we are again having a party at home although we will be going to see the match at Manuel´s bar.
    We will also be going to Seville (17th July) to pick Philip and Claudia up as there are no direct planes from Malta. We will be staying a couple of days so we can show them the sights. As soon as they go auntie Romaine and family are coming for a week, and we will all be leaving for uk on the same day!!!!By then you will be reintegrated into your work and SA will seem like a dream you had!!!
    I have also got more work for september!!! I have been taking English people to hospital as a translator and there is an opening for me with the brit community. I am also, in september starting spanish classes in two different bars in Roquetas so im back to what I do best….chat chat chat!!hahaha
    Well my lovely, lovey star Im going to leave you now and CANNOT wait for september to spend QUALITY time with the three of you!!!!
    love you Zillions mamaxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  10. marichu

    Hello honey!!!
    What a match… I must say I am absolutely exausted!!!!
    We had some friends here with us and they could nt beleive how involved I got!! I told them that when you were little I was banned from the field and sent to the canteen to serve teas and coffees remember? ha ha ha good old times!!!!
    Wish you were here with us to celebrate…..
    love you zillionsxxxxxxxxxxxx mama

  11. Oh, gosh. We won. We played well. We played Barça style, btw. Lot of people in Barcelona did celebrate it. Of course, some were willing the Selección to lose (some friends and colleagues from work, too). It feels quite strange, though, I supported them because I like the squad, the humility of every player.

    It will be weird not watching the final with friends, in some house or bar in Barcelona. I will be very weird to celebrate we winning the WC in London (I don’t know with who, yet).

    Why do I like football now? I now know when it’s offside!

  12. Thanks for the books Maria, it is very much appreciated. Good to see that you are getting very much into the football as well, although I don’t want to see you supporting La Roja only when they win, a true supporter is there for their team in the good or the bad times. Great to see how proud you are of your country, Spain😉

    Hi Ana, good to hear that you will be coming back to Barcelona after you finishing studying, I didn’t know that. Have a safe flight back and enjoy your holiday in Morocco. Will see you very soon in Malta Lulu.

    Hi mother, good to see you are getting busier. It is better that than you getting bored at home with nothing to do, you still have a lot of life in you my old mother. I am very jealous of all the parties you have been having for the football and wish I was there with you, but I cannot really complain as I will be at the final. Would be fabulous to have experienced all of this with you guys present here, but you can’t have everything in life. I am a very happy boy. September is just round the corner and we will soon be able to spend some quality time together. Love you zillions.

  13. I want a picture with the kids and the books when they arrive🙂 You can explain them Where the wild things are, you know that one!

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