Impressions For A Lifetime
November 6th, 2018. Global Citizen, Moritz Guertler from Germany reflects on his time working with CAC On-Field with Community Partner Uni Papua F.C. throughout Indonesia over the past month!
I had the opportunity to be part of the ‘Coaching for Coaches’-team (further including Charlie and Jesse from the US, Frans from West Papua, and Peter from Burkina Faso) in five different locations within Indonesia over four weeks: Jakarta, Lampung Timur, Pekanbaru, Bali, and Tangerang. Since it is close to impossible to put all these impressions into one article, I decided to share with you my list of the most incisive moments and impressions, both, positive and negative:
- The first and most overwhelming: getting picked up from Jakarta airport on a scooter (two guys, three backpacks) driving through the ultimate Asian urban jungle of vibrant, noisy, and dirty Jakarta, for 1h 30min after a 17-hour trip from Munich via Doha.
- The most difficult pitch: definitely in Tabanan, Bali – where the pitch was more of a sandpit than anything else with even a road for cars and scooters running THROUGH the pitch.
- The most beautiful: Lampung’s countryside with jungle and clean rivers we got to swim in.
- The most surprising: the professionalism of staff and facilities of Tiga Naga Football Academy in Pekanbaru, Sumatra – a far above standard institution for young boys striving for a professional career in football in Indonesia.
- The strangest: witnessing a trance ritual (called Kuda Lumping; translated to ‘crazy horse’) in Lampung Timur, Sumatra: two women dressed up as animals in wooden masks and a tamer with a whip gave a very intense performance while a repeating series of drums, flute, and spell singing completed a dramatic and vibrant atmosphere, which causes form of trance for members of that ‘cult’. As the intensity and excitement rose among the audience, suddenly, spectators jumped into the circle obviously not being themselves, pretending to be animals crawling through the sand receiving higher spirits into their bodies. At the end of the ritual, the tamer lifts the spirits from the bodies and “brings them back”. They do not remember what happened afterwards.
- The most disappointing: missing three out of five days program in Bali due to one of Bali’s classics: the ‘Bali belly’ basically not allowing you to leave the bathroom for a couple of days.
- The happiest: being able to leave the bed again after almost missing out on the whole Bali project.
- The culinary highlight: definitely Pekanbaru, Sumatra, with its spicy and sweet-sour crab and shrimp, deliciously marinated fish, and the best grilled chicken I had in a very long time.
- The most nerve-wrecking: the roads between Lampung airport and the village where we coached that hardly deserve any name related to street, road, path or track – more potholes than actual road surface – in the complete darkness of the night.
- The best project: the last one in Tangerang Seletan, Java, since participants were so creative and fun to work with.
- The most touching: at the end of the last session in Jakarta, Benjamin, one of the participants, thanked me for the effort and heart I give to his country.
- The most impressive human being: Coach Frans from West Papua as the eldest of seven kids who volunteered many years for Uni Papua as a coach and, after he became a paid coach, financed his first brother’s university studies until he graduated with a bachelors degree just recently.
My overall takeaways are the smiles of the people and the fun they had while playing these games. Don’t get me wrong here: I love football and enjoyed it all my life. But for me it was the first time to play games of football where the competition is not at the core like it has been throughout my football career. It is all about the social impact and the fun; and the fun is present every second – always! I definitely understand now better why football is called ‘The Beautiful Game’ – for me personally, football just gained a whole new dimension after these intense weeks.
One Love: Harare, Zimbabwe
June 27th 2016. CAC volunteer Carrie Taylor writes about her 1st CAC experience in Harare, Zimbabwe.
When analyzing my time in Zimbabwe through Coaches Across Continents, I keep coming back to the idea of the incredible power of sport, and in this case the sport is soccer/football. If you can mention the name Messi, Marta, Ronaldo or talk about an EPL team, you can strike up a conversation with anyone and make an instant connection.
CAC brought me to Harare to work with the wonderful coaches of Zim through the Sports Recreation Commission via Neswten Chipoya. Newsten was quiet yet very strong in organizing people. He did a tremendous job in bringing people together and creating connections. Our zany and energetic leader for the week was Nora Dooley from CAC along with Nico who is from Tanzania whose outgoing personality and his penchant for teaching wood ball was a hit with the participants.
As a longtime coaching educator in the US, I have had a lot of experiences with working with coaches, so going in, I was very interested in how different the CAC curriculum was and how it was to be delivered from the typical US coaching course.
First off I was blown away by the shear number and strength of the women in the course. I was able to meet Rosemary who was the former Zimbabwe Women’s National team coach, and a some of her former players; Lillian, Bridget, Dorothy and Elizabeth to name a few. Many of whom were returning to the CAC program for the second or third time. Then we had a group of 6 female teachers from Masvingo who travelled 400k by bus to come learn how to impact their primary and secondary students in their area. All these women were strong, powerful, outspoken and well respected by every man in the course. During the week through the CAC games and group work about Gender Equality, Child Rights, and Healthy Behaviors these women made sure their opinions were heard and that they garnered respect from everyone in the course.
A few of these women mentioned above, then came together again later after the week was done along with other female sport leaders in Zimbabwe. Nora introduced the women to CAC’s ASK for Choice Curriculum. These women met for discussions about first how to support one another in their challenges and second to start to form a Women’s Sports Leaders Group with the support of the SRC. To be apart of these discussions was great for me, as we have similar challenges in the US and I have been active lately in the growth of the female voice in soccer back home.
Another one of the key people who not only drove us around all week, but made it a goal to make sure that we were able to watch the Euros at the local pub was Julius. Julius was the epitome of the power of sport. During the week we found out that Julius had lived recently and gone to school in Leipzig, Germany, was a PE teacher and coach at Cornway College, which is a private school outside of Harare. Julius also was graduate of the University of Zimbabwe. Besides liking Man U, 😉 Julius was a wonderful, thoughtful and kind host. He showed us the underlying passion, spirit and drive of many of the coaches we met in Harare. We were able to meet a few of his players during the week and very much saw the mutual respect and caring between Julius and the young men that he coaches.
Then there was Wisdom, whose contagious energy, passion and zest for soccer was evident from the smile and joy he exuded every time you were around him. When playing a CAC adapted game that we would typically identify as “Partner Steal the Bacon”, instead of being given a number your groups of two were identified first by issues surrounding child rights, such as child abuse, child labor, early marriage. Then the game switched and your group was identified by a solution to the issues, such as education, or communication. Wisdom’s group wanted Love to be the solution. This solution struck a chord with me.
LOVE, and in this case our common love of soccer brought this amazing group of coaches together for a week. Love for our players, love for competition, love for the world sport of soccer. This experience was nothing like the coaching courses that I teach back home. Sure we shared your basic soccer activities for kids, but real social issues were discussed, and more importantly people shared their love and passion for the game and made friendships and connections that hopefully they will carry with them forever. I feel fully confident that each participant will apply something that they learned from this week and utilize it in their own environment. I will take home new friendships, a new dance or two, a couple words of Shona, and a much deeper appreciation for the world through love for the beautiful game.
Wind Of Change
June 20th 2016. CAC SDL Coach Markus Bensch opens up on his background and the nature of global change.
I was born in 1985 in a dictatorship. When I was four years old, people started to go onto the streets and demonstrated against the regime demanding free elections, freedom of speech and movement. On Nov 9, 1989 the wall between East and West Berlin fell and Germany’s re-unification process started. When I was five Germany was a united nation and my country of birth, German Democratic Republic (GDR), didn’t exist anymore.
Without the effort and bravery of men and women who no longer accepted the situation they were living in, I am not sure I would be able to do the work I do today. My three oldest brothers were 19, 18 and 17 when they were able to travel for the first time in their lives to Munich, Frankfurt or Hamburg, France or England; to the “West” as people were saying in those days. My parents were 49 and 40 when the wall came down. They lived the majority of their lives in a country that didn’t allow them to say what they thought and to travel wherever they wanted. I was too young back then. I don’t consciously remember the re-unification, but my body and my heart have captured these moments, the emotions and the “Wind of Change” for the rest of my life!
26 years later: A couple of weeks ago I watched a German program where they show cases of crime which they want to detect and with short films they ask the general public for help. They showed one case where a Muslim woman who lived in Germany, divorced from her husband, lost in court the care-right for the one girl-child that she was taking care of. The two boys that she had with her ex-husband where already living with him. On top of that the husband’s family gave her 6 months to also return the dowry (gold jewelry) which she wasn’t willing to do. After exactly 6 months some instructed men from the ex-husband’s family came to her home and simply killed her. To date nobody knows where her body is.
This story made me angry and fearful. I thought: Now some Islamic based traditions have even come to Germany and undermined our freedom and judicial system. But then I realized that this case made me particularly angry and fearful, because it happened in Germany. At the same time I realized that this happens every day around the world to thousands of women. Why do I feel worse when that happens in Germany than if it happens in Iran or Syria? In this moment something slightly shifted in me. In future I hope I can feel the same pain and discomfort if somebody gets harmed, no matter in which part of the world it happens or which nationality the person has.
I imagine 30 years from now, in two generations, I might get asked the following questions: There was this country where women suffered from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)!? There was this tradition where women got married as they were still children!? There were people who expressed their opinion and got killed!? There was a country where every 17 seconds a woman got raped (South Africa)!? What did you do about that? How did you feel when you heard about that?
I want to respond by saying: It made me sad and it made me angry. But most importantly I didn’t want to accept it and I was able to work for an organization called Coaches Across Continents which gave me the opportunity to go to these communities and listen to the stories of women who have experienced FGM or who have been raped or who survived a genocide. But I also got the chance to address these issues and work with local people who wanted to bring change to their community and end harmful traditional, religious and cultural practices. And I am happy to see that you young people don’t need to live in this fear today. I am happy that you have the freedom that you can wear, say, do and go wherever and whatever you want as long as you respect the freedom of your neighbor!
I am very grateful to my colleagues, our volunteers, and the incredible participants that I was able to work with for being such wonderful people. I love working with you for peace and a liberating future! Thank you!
5 Months, 5 Countries, Beautiful Memories
Senior Staff member, Markus Bensch writes about his first five months with Coaches Across Continents.
September 4th, 2014. While writing this I’m sitting in the Atatürk Airport in Istanbul waiting for my connecting flight to Nuremberg, Germany. It will be my first time back in my country of origin after I started to work for Coaches Across Continents in late March. What has it been like in the past five months? Amazing, challenging, rewarding, tiring, refreshing, fun, exciting, and shocking … All those and many more adjectives can describe my experience with CAC and the people I worked with. I want to start with the most recent one that I had in Rwanda, because it’s the one that is the most fresh and that was also the most intense in so many ways.
We were running four different programs in Rwanda with our partner Football for Hope, Peace & Unity (FHPU) represented by its founder Eric Murangwa and his colleague Didier Bana. There have been previous blogs from Nora, Tom and Yael as well as from Francis saying how impressed we’ve been about the participants, their eagerness to learn, and their motivation to make a difference for their community and Rwanda as a whole. There is so much dedication towards development and change that when you speak to Rwandans at some point during the conversation they all mention the genocide in 1994, it seems that a lot of the dedication and motivation comes from this horrible killing of over 1 million people. On my last day before I left Rwanda I caught the chance to go to one of the memorials that can be found in all different parts of Rwanda. Didier from FHPU, an excellent guide, accompanied me on this trip. We went to Ntarama, a catholic church where one of the mass killings took place. As so often in history the church collaborated with the perpetrators and helped or even justified and blessed the killings. More than 5,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutus in Ntarama on the 15th April 1994 after spending 6 days in and around the church trying to escape the killing. The local tour guide took us through the different buildings around the church and I faced the most shocking picture in the room where the Sunday school took place. There was a bloodstained wall witnessing the killing of the children that were hiding on the church compound. Their heads had just been smashed against the wall and the blood remains on the wall until today as reminder of this horrible killing. And right next to it I saw a 2 meter long pointed wooden stick and the guide explains to us that this was used to kill the women after they have been raped by impaling them from their privates through their head. My breath stopped for a moment, followed by pain in my body, the feeling of emptiness and crying. I feel that with my tears I can give back these victims at least a little tiny bit of compassion and human kindness that they have been missing so much in the last moments of their lives. It’s horrific what humans can do to each other when they’ve lost their humanity. On a sheet that is covering some of the coffins inside the church is written in Kinyarwanda the following sentence: “If you would have known me and if you would have known you, you would have not killed me!” This outcry tells us the reason for this mass-killing and how it could have been prevented.
But Rwanda is not only about its past and the genocide. It is first and foremost a beautiful country with amazing people. I’ve experienced so much friendliness and so much help when I tried to orientate myself as a stranger in a new country. And I’ve experienced so much kindness and humanity; I’m particularly impressed by the honesty of many Rwandans. In my one week holiday in Rwanda I also saw the beautiful nature of this country. My favourite experience was the two day cycling tour from Gisenyi to Kibuye along the Lake Kivu in the west of the country. Knowing that Rwanda is called the country of thousands hills, you can imagine how much I was physically and mentally challenged in these two days.
These are the most recent experiences and definitely also one of the most intense of the past five months and will remain and definitely influence me in the time to come. Looking at the wider picture of the past five months I’ve been a part of or in charge of 14 different CAC programs in 5 different countries. And I can just confirm the CAC saying “Every program is different!”. I have had a great introduction by Nora in Uganda and Sophie in Tanzania to the CAC philosophy and curriculum. I want to say “Thank you!” to both of them for their support. After 7 weeks I felt well prepared to run my own programs. To lead the programs in Zimbabwe and South Africa was the next major step for me. I think I learned a lot in this time and as Nick did testimony in my last skype call: “I became less German!” I’ll take that as a compliment and I’m curious what I’ll become. More African? More Cosmopolitan? More relaxed? Hopefully a bit of everything!
The most rewarding in the past five months was to see how all the groups I worked with differ. The surprise that comes up with each group makes my work so interesting and exciting and at the same time challenging, because it requires the openness on my side to support the development that comes up within the group initiated by the individuals. It is very exciting to put self-directed learning into practice and I like the challenge to get better in it with every single program. Development and Self-Directed Learning is not only reserved for our participants, but through my work it reflects on me and questions my beliefs, assumed limitations, and gives me the opportunity to broaden my borders and develop skills.
I want to say “Thank you!” to Nick and Brian for giving me this great opportunity to be a part of the “CAC family” to develop my skills and personality and contribute towards “Football for social impact.” Last but not least I want to say “Thank you!” to all the people who work off the field and behind the scenes to make my work on the field possible and easier. I just recently learned that CAC is a fast growing business and we already count 60+ people who are involved in our vision of using football for social impact and contributing time towards CAC. I’m proud to be one of them!
UAC Buea coaches finish three years working with Coaches Across Continents
July 1st 2014. Hello from Buea! We are now in our third week of Coaches Across Continents training here in Cameroon, working in Buea with United Action for Children. We had many new coaches and teachers from around the Buea area join us this week. Buea sits at the base of Mt. Cameroon which made for a breathtaking view from the field every day.
The coaches pinpointed gender equality, nutrition, and HIV as the social issues in their communities that they wanted to address this week with CAC’s curriculum, so we tried to place added emphasis in these areas. On our second day of CAC training, we played a nutrition game with the coaches that taught about what a balanced diet consists of and why it is important to eat healthy foods. For every scored goal, that person was allowes to pick out either a carbohydrate, fat, or protein (represented by cones, water bottles, and balls), to build a healthy meal. Once the team that had two healthy meals consisting of one carb, one fat, and one protien each, they win! This game sparked up a great conversation about healthy foods in the communities in Buea, its availability, and the issues that keep people from making healthy eating choices.
We stayed at the UAC volunteer house this week, with other volunteers from Germany and the USA. It was nice for all of our Cameroon Coaches Across Continents staff to be together in the same house. We were able to easily meet, discuss how the day went and plan lessons for the next day between training, meals, and the evening world cup games. Watching the World Cup games at a nearby bar was definitely a highlight of the week. Unfortunately, Cameroon lost this week, but that didnt seem to effect the spirits of the coaches this week. They kept us on our toes and kept us laughing all week.
On our last night in Buea the UAC staff invited us out to an end of school year social gathering for their teachers and staff. The food and drinks were delicious, the music was loud and the dancing was a lot of fun! It was great to spend some time outside of training with some of the coaches we had been working with all week. Sophie, Josh and I had fun laughing at each other as we tried to dance to the different music. I think the locals were entertained by our dancing, too. In the end, we could not keep up with energy level of the UAC staff members. Some of them were up dancing until midnight!
Its crazy to think that next week is my last week with Coaches Across Continents. We will make our way to Kumba for our final week in Cameroon working with CFDP (Cameroon Football Development Program).
Diverse Coaches in Harare
July 2nd 2014. CAC 2nd year volunteer Charlie Crawford blogs from Harare, Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe’s capitol of Harare I found myself getting ready for my 3rd week of working for Coaches Across Continents this summer. Every program is different, but some frustrations with last week’s attendance had me holding my breath as we stepped onto Queen Elizabeth School’s field. I didn’t need to hold it long. Right off the bat we had a majority of participants sitting in the stands waiting for us to get started. Because so many were there so early we went around to informally introduce everyone. Among the participants were nutrition teachers, football, swimming, volleyball and netball coaches, prison guards, sports commissioners and a dozen others, all eager to begin. Couldn’t hand-pick a better crew.
The week progressed as I’ve learned a program is meant to. By the end of each session participants and coaches alike were exhausted. Often a number of them would approach one of us after and describe how the games or a slight variation that they learned that day were just the sort that they had been looking to implement through their own sport in their own community.
Following a full day of running around, Markus, Julie, Layla and I would walk into the city with a few members of Bulldogs to spend $2 for a healthy serving of Sadza and Fish/Chicken (or cow stomach which I mistook for slightly furry fish). On one of these walks through the city we came out of the ice cream shop we had been indulging in as sirens blared and three police motorcycles were followed by 2 large black SUVs, a black limo with tinted windows, and two military convoys bristling with soldiers with leveled weapons scanning the crowd. It looked like there was a government convoy passing!
After a refreshingly fulfilling 4 days of games it was time for the Child Right’s discussion (only sit-down-talk part of our curriculum). Ill admit to being a little nervous guiding it myself for the first time but I could not have asked for a better group of coaches and teachers. The more universal points on general abuse were engaged in thoughtfully and powerfully. More interesting though, for me at least, was the lengthy detour the group took to discuss the reality of and communal approach to homosexuality. In a country whose constitution condemns it as a criminal act, creating a space where all manners and perspectives could be safely expressed and listened to was probably the most educational part of my two summers working with CAC.
Later that night, after Germany beat the USA 1-0 (you got lucky Markus, I Believe Russia 2018), the leaders of Bulldogs took us out to enjoy a night of dancing and food. Fortunately for those of us with two left feet, the dance floor was literally empty except for the DJs, which encouraged us to make quality fools of ourselves and even attracted a 24 cow marriage proposal for one in our party.
It doesn’t get much better than ending a week of work with responsive coaches but Markus managed to top it off in a way only he could. As we left Queen Elizabeth’s field for the last time, a group of teenage female students fresh from their classes drew our attention when their informal singing was interrupted by a fit of giggles and whispers directed at Markus. Delighted by his fresh popularity, Markus approached and politely asked for another song. Bulldogs leaders, participants, Layla, Julie, and I could only watch as Makrus and his pony tail bobbed back and forth to a beautiful rendition of John Legend’s All of Me. It was a revitalizing week and I can’t wait to get back at it in northern Zambia!