What do you need to create a soccer team?
Grass, amusement and lots of kids; three things that are very easy to find in a village like Manungu. We arrived in the village on a Sunday, and immediately concerns were raised, considering the complete lack of facilities. Never mind, once we realized we could count on a dozen young people in their twenties to help us as trainers, we just needed a pinch of imagination: we used two swing sets as goals, lime powder to make the field lines, and a ball that we bought at the market. We agreed to meet the next morning and so we began.
In the mornings we trained the new “Coaches”; the first day there were eight, but each day new people arrived and our numbers increased to fifteen. Our aim was to teach them in the morning on how to train the children in the afternoon, so that the project could continue even after our departure. In the beginning we had trouble enforcing a schedule with our Coaches, punctuality is not exactly a Zambian/African strength. But, it only took a little while for us to become friends and to convince them that we were not just there to take “selfies on another continent”, but we took this initiative very seriously, and so, we solved this little problem too. They were/are super excited about this new “Soccer School”: they elected a team captain, we provided them with uniforms and we started to play matches among ourselves. Everyone was happy and pleased with the progress we were making.
Meanwhile, in the afternoon the number of children became unmanageable, we started with thirty and after two weeks we ended up with sixty kids, most of whom were unable to speak English. The first few days we managed, we communicated with signs. There was a bit of confusion, but we were able to carry out the workouts with the help of the timid Coaches. Then suddenly something clicked and the Coaches took the situation into their own hands and began to reproduce the workouts we showed them in the morning. It was a great success; and so it continued, under our proud supervision.
You can imagine our joy and satisfaction when, months after our return to Italy, the Coaches still send us pictures of their workouts, which take place 2-3 times a week. They also told us about a friendly match against the children of the nearby village Solo, which they won 1-0.
Why a soccer school? What can we teach them? Obviously not soccer, we are not great players ourselves. We modestly tried to impart something to the boys of Manungu that goes beyond soccer itself: the idea that sports can push you to make sacrifices in order to achieve something worthwhile, and we also wanted to propose an alternative to spending their afternoons on the street.
We realize that we haven’t really made an earth shattering difference in the village, but we believe we have left the seeds of a small dream, a small brick of this project that we want to continue to build upon in the years ahead. And in the meantime, we continue to enjoy friendships we established with the guys who write us every day as if we were long-time friends.