Monday, October 21, 2013

Football Crazy

Sandema Inclusive Football

On Thursday we met with coaches who - together with the last IS team - worked on an all-inclusive Sports Day that was held here in Sandema in August. They are Felix, Stephen and Samson and they are all frequently involved in various footballing projects within Sandema and the wider area. August’s sports day involved able bodied and disabled members of the community competing together in various sporting events, they explained how they all felt that it went well and was a great success. We were then particularly keen to find out how we could build on the foundation laid down by the last team and carry it forward during our own 3 month stint here.
They explained that every year during the build-up to the Feok festival there’s a football tournament between the different ‘sections’ of Sandema town; the idea being that established teams can’t compete, with players playing only for local pride. The winning team would also have the honour of going on to represent Sandema at the main weekend of the Feok, against the winning teams of the various other Builsa communities. We decided that we’d try to scout some of the disabled football players from the last sports day and mix them with able bodied athletes in order to form a football team that’d hopefully be able to compete in this event. We wanted to show that having a disability didn’t necessarily restrict someone’s ability and it certainly shouldn’t restrict their chance to compete. However, some obstacles to this were:
§  Teams usually represented districts of Sandema and we’d have to seek special dispensation from the organising committee in order to compete as a new side

§  A lot of the boys are in school during this time, so training and matches may prove difficult to organise and we may need to seek permission from the teachers

§  We are still required to complete some fundraising for training and match materials: such as numbers to be printed on our shirts (40 cedi) and, if possible, matching shorts and socks

So, to surmise… eh, quite a few issues! We knew that it was going to be tough though and we were under no illusion that it was definitely going to happen. However, we were all up for the challenge; immediately starting work on a plan of action!
Later that afternoon I again met up with two of the coaches, Felix and Samson, who took me to meet a member of the football organising committee, he was friendly and helpful and said he’d take our request to the rest of his group. He did say that they hadn’t even had their first meeting yet, so as a team we decided to make our request more formal and would seek to type and print it for them in the coming days. We then moved a couple of houses down where we met with a gentleman who printed names and numbers on football kits and negotiated a price for ours, should we be accepted in to the competition. The kits themselves were donated by Hamburg based football team Sankt Pauli who were delighted to help with such a project, which is very much in line with their social policies. They have a proud tradition of promoting inclusion and being against all forms of discrimination.
The three of us went our separate ways at this point but I was invited along to a football training session with Samson’s team tomorrow, which worried me as I hadn’t played a proper game of 11-a-side in about a year!

The next day it was well over 30oC by the end of our working day - so not exactly the conditions that I was used to playing football in back home in Scotland! I met Felix in Sandema town and he took me along to the pitch to greet Samson and the rest of the team. There were around 60 boys present, so it was a big training session and it was a junior and senior side playing together with ages ranging from 10-22. The standard was excellent and it was tough playing under the African sun but I felt it went really well and it was great to get to know Felix, Samson and a lot of the other boys a bit better. Samson was the manager and it was clear the boys all respected him; he kept the team very disciplined and wasn’t shy in handing out reprimands when he felt someone wasn’t taking things seriously. At the end of session he told of how he had spoken to some teachers at local schools and it was evident some of the boys hadn’t been going. He went on to say that this was completely unacceptable and if it continued then they wouldn’t get to play for the team. The impression I got from Samson and Felix was that they were passionate about football but also clearly about social inclusion and the work International Service were doing in Sandema. I left the session half dead and in dire need of a few litres of water; but also pleased that we’d be working with people with similar ideals and goals.  The hard work would now really begin in trying to get our team accepted in to the competition!

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