All Work and All Play?
July 4th 2015. Senior Staff, Nora Dooley, blogs from South Africa about the first of two weeks with the Mokopane Red Cross Society and their Football for Hope Center.
Back to South Africa. Back to pap, braai, incredible dance moves, teasing football skills, Chiefs vs. Pirates disagreements, learning words I’ll never be able to pronounce but trying anyway, and rooibos tea. I love it here.
After living in Kimberley for a year in 2012/2013, I am returning to South Africa for a third year in a row to run programs for CAC. I have toured and worked all over this massive country, but as it is so, this is my first time to Mokopane. We are working at the FIFA Football for Hope Center operated by the South African Red Cross Society. After a successful first year, we are back for a second and taking the next big step in sport for social impact. For two weeks these participants from various communities in the Mogalakwena municipality will learn many new games with the ultimate goal of adaptation: taking one game, changing it, making it their own, and adding layers and different social messages.
For this first week of training we kept that goal in mind but began our slow but steady trek to the top. Each morning we played new games from Messi dribbling to Hope Solo goalkeeping with some intense afternoon classroom discussions to complement the on-field activity. These discussions were all designed bearing long-term impact in mind; what do we want the participants to discuss that will provoke sustainable positive social change?
Instead of diving straight into the negatives in their various communities, we approached the ascent from a different path. We asked the participants to form smaller groups and discuss various questions collectively. They began simply with “What do you love about Mokopane?”, “What do you want the world to know about South Africa?”, and more generally, “What do you want to learn?”. Over the course of the first week the questions evolved into, “What makes you angry?”, “What do you wish was different?”, and “What does your perfect world look like?”. These discussions built the foundation that allowed us to openly discuss solutions. Our key solutions come through football, but within that pivotal game there are infinite choices. So from here we capped off the first week breaking down what the participants chose as some of the biggest issues they face in their communities and attempting to better understand these issues in order to create new games to teach about them. It was brilliant. The participants surprised themselves with their curiosity, they challenged each other with different ideas, and they blew us away with their commitment to a different, hopefully better, future for their beautiful but troubled country.
A similar realization came during one of the on-field games. After learning some goalkeeping skills the participants were playing a game of handball and bringing those techniques into a game-like situation. They were then asked to find a partner on their team and hold hands with one another. The game of handball resumed but the pairs had to maintain the hold while trying to catch and throw a football. When they understood the challenge, they stared at me in disbelief. They genuinely did not believe such a task was possible, but after only hearing a repetition of the rules from their coach, onward they marched. Once again, they surprised themselves, they shared ideas, and they blew me away. It is seriously amazing what people can accomplish when given the opportunity to struggle, collaborate, and solve their problems without authoritative interference.
And solve they did, day after day, all while playing a game we share as a passion, dancing because we can, and laughing as much as we please. South Africa, Mokopane, thank you for welcoming me back in the best way possible. Yes, there are issues; yes, we have work to do; and yes, we will most definitely have fun (and eat way too much pap) while doing it. Let’s see how much we can accomplish with a second week here at the Football for Hope Center – stay tuned!