• Crying is Cool

    November 18th 2016. CAC Global Citizen Alicia Calcagni wrote about gender stereotypes in Malda, India with Slum Soccer.

    When was the last time you cried? If you’re a man then your answer is definitely, “Never.” If you’re a woman then your answer is definitely, “This morning.” This is a common stereotype across our world.

    Last week I was working with a group of 18-22 year old coaches from a village in rural India. We played a game that discussed typical male and female qualities. I introduced it by asking the group to define four characteristics of a man. They shouted, “strong, angry, and happy.” After struggling to determine a fourth, in between giggles, a young man offered “crying.” You guys get the joke, right? Obviously guys do not cry. However, he stopped giggling when I asked him: “Why don’t boys cry?” “Because we are not girls, we are strong.” I should have guessed that. Then I really challenged him, “Even though you do not cry, do you still feel emotions inside of you?” He nodded slowly, uttering a serious “yes.” I am proud of him for admitting this in a world where the cultural norm is to oppress emotions.

    We continued our discussion and I suggested that boys are strong when they cry. Maybe you can imagine the crowds response. It was an uproar of laughs and “no, no, no!!!!!” It is also important to note that the boy to girl ratio was 15:8, and the men were dominating this conversation. If no one ever questions then boys will always be strong, and girls will always be weak. Will we ever be able to define crying as strong? I have trouble understating why it is normal to suppress emotions, when 1. It is impossible and 2. Everybody feels them. However, now that it is public knowledge that women AND men have feelings why not give crying a try?

  • Kindness

    September 23rd 2016. Alicia Calcagni blogs from Sentani and Jayapura in Indonesia with Uni Papau FC.
    Mark and I have spent the last 2 weeks in Sentani and Jayapura with a Uni Papua crew, and they significantly enhanced our experience. To start, the coordinator of the Jayapura program, Yanti, opened her house to us. Then in Jayapura, we had the help of Marthin, Natalia, Yan, and Ken. All of them can speak a little English, so collectively they were able to help us clearly convey all of the games and social messages. Without them, it really would not have been possible. Off the field, they took us to all their favorite spots likthe coffee shop, the place they always go for dinner, and the hill on Sentani lake. They made the programs run smoothly and made sure we had a great time off of the field. One act of kindness that I will never forget was when I was sick in bed with a cold. I was too sick to coach one day, so I stayed back at the hotel drinking tea. I was reading and I heard a knock on the door then a familiar voice ring, “Aliciaaa.” I opened the door to Yanti! She made the hour drive from her home in Sentani to our hotel in Jayapura just to check on me! I do not speak Bahasa and she does not speak English, so we communicate via Google translate. She typed, “I miss you very much and heard you are not healthy, so I want to see you.” Then, she offered to get dinner with me, and when I said no she gave me a dragonfruit. If she wasn’t nice enough already she added that she would stay the night at the hotel to take care of me!!! She did not say one word and she exuded so much kindness, compassion, and love. Everyone we meet we can only communicate a little bit, but it is just enough to convey social messages on and off of the field.
  • The Power of Futbol

    September 15th 2016. CAC volunteer Alicia Calcagni writes about our work with Uni Papua in Tamika, Indonesia.

    As we drive through a village half a mile long at 11:30 am with our windows rolled down, we watch soldiers of two tribes sharpen their arrows and knives, preparing for battle at noon. It is lightly raining and puddles have started to form on both sides of the bumpy dirt road. We are informed that it is their designated lunch break, we missed combat by a mere 30 minutes. Their battle is one of many in a continuous war — maybe over a killed pig, a woman, a dirty look… It doesn’t take much. When there is a conflict, death follows. Soldiers include men, women, and children. Entering the “red zone” we pass one woman who is walking with her two little ones while gripping two sharpened knives in one hand. We continue driving past groups of men casually hanging out on their porches, drinking some water simultaneously guarding their bows, which are as tall as their bodies. Our driver then tells us we must say “Amola! (Hello)!” to everyone we pass in the village to state our presence, or else we will be attacked. Quote, “If you do not say hi, they will attack.” Feeling their intense glare burn through my skin, I start shyly waving my right hand out of the window. Doing anything and everything to avoid eye contact. The battlefield is in the middle of the village, between the two tribes: Kwangju Lana and Kuala Kencan. It is a small open dirt patch with, I kid you not, a church in the middle. The daily battles must end in a draw. If three from one tribe are killed, three from the other must be killed as well. So while lives are lost, a conclusion does not grow any closer. In the middle of this madness there is a soccer pitch. It sits right on the dividing line of the villages. The two tribes have named it a “safe zone.”  For however long, enemies come together to play a futbol match with no bows and no knives. How much strength does a soccer ball truly posses? Just enough to create peace. This is the true power of futbol.

    I am proud to be a teacher of the game that brings various communities together. I am confident in coaching soccer for social change and making our world a better place.


  • Back in Biak

    September 6th 2016. Alicia Calcagni writes from Biak, Indonesia about the unique island and our work with Uni Papua.

    Biak is an authentic island that does not possess the familiar qualities of any other island I have visited. Now of course not one island is the same, but they can tend to have a similar feel. However, Biak holds an unadulterated and fascinating vibe that radiates from east to west. For example, on our last day the Uni Papua team took us to a beach and cliff area. We step out of the car to wooden hangout huts with tin roofs along the ledge of the beach. One of them was used as a dance floor for the karaoke machine, which not only contained classic Indonesian songs, but the classic American ones as well. Mark and I may have preformed one of the best duets of “I Will Always Love You” Indonesia has ever seen. We unloaded pots filled with rice, vegetables, potatoes, and a big black bag of fresh raw fish from the car. Our hosts set up a small burner and used coconut shell debris as wood to start the fire. After Uni Papua refused Mark and I’s help with dinner preparation, we walked off to the cliffs. From far away it looked like a cluster of bodies peering over the edge contemplating whether or not to jump in. Instead, people of all ages were balancing in a deep squat; their backs were as straight as a line drawn with a ruler. Putting all of their faith in the friction created by their flip flops, they pressed their heels into the slippery rock stopping themselves from sliding straight into the Pacific. In other words, they were fishing. Except, only one kid had a fishing rod. The rest of them wrapped the fishing line around their hand or used a water bottle as the rod. The pure joy on everyone’s face was beautiful. Life is simple. Man made stone couches were ingrained on the side of the cliff. It was the ideal spot to watch and partake in the warm Saturday evening activity. One of the 10 year old boys who participated in our program earlier in the week came over to me with a half living, flopping fish. If I wasn’t disturbed by this enough, he started picking out the guts of the small animal with his bare fingers. Yeah, I had to look away too. We are not able to communicate, so after a few minutes of this procedure he just ran away. I looked over my shoulder searching for him and I spotted smoke rising from a grass patch on the flat of the cliff. As I was walking, I tried to convince myself that he was not cooking that small baby fish right here, right now. Sure enough, I found him carefully roasting his prize in an open fire built from bamboo, coconut, and bark. Amazing. Never experiencing something like this before I could not stop laughing. I had to try a piece now. So, there we squatted enjoying our fresh snack, and the view.

    Before this invaluable experience, Uni Papua took us to a high school on the island. When we got there we were introduced to a few of the teachers and the headmaster. The headmaster wanted us to play a few games with the students. It was awesome. We all walked down the road to a small field. After our introduction we started the session with Old Trafford Tag. Which is a normal tag game, but whoever gets tagged needs to join hands with the tagger, which will eventually form one long line. The game is over when there is only one person left. The students loved this game. They were laughing and smiling simultaneously problem solving and developing leadership skills. We followed with three more CAC games: Adebayor Hands Against HIV, Adebayor Uses a Condom tag, and Head/Catch. The students and the headmaster said they had so much fun. When we went back to the school for a meeting with the headmaster he told us that every Sunday is game day for the kids, and the games we taught them were going to be added to the list. All we had was one hour and a half and now the 4 games we played will be repeated every Sunday. We caught a glimpse of the benefits of using sport for social change.