• New Generation Queens

    August 26th 2016. CAC and New Generation Queens assisted a group of high school soccer players on a trip to Zanzibar. Ben Kahrl and Toni Lansbury wrote about their visit.

    When the Zanzibari women came to the field, I recognized several of them and felt like I was meeting movie stars. In fact, I was. Riziki, Little Messi, their coach. I was living what I had seen only on the screen. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

    On a very snowy winter afternoon, eighteen months before, two varsity college soccer players had come to my classroom to talk about their experiences volunteering with Coaches Across Continents. I had seen a story about the two women on Harvard’s Athletic Department website and invited them to come and talk. They were inspiring, just a few years older than my students and going off around the world and using soccer to bridge cultural divides. They spoke of how soccer was helping break down cultural barriers, change traditions, and help gain equality in parts of the world that held traditional beliefs about the role of women in society. Then, I heard about women soccer players on Zanzibar and wondered if we could go there too, meet with them, and play a little bit of the beautiful game. Coaches Across Continents had helped Meg Shutzer make a film, “New Generation Queens” about one of the few women’s soccer teams on the island of Zanzibar. Throughout, we could see many of the challenges, and successes, of these women, in playing the game they loved. My own daughter, just thirteen, and several of my own students loved the game. I asked Meg and Nick Gates if we could take a small group of Americans to Zanzibar and play a few games. Indeed, we could and more.

    And so, a year’s worth of planning later, here we were, walking onto Zanzibar’s national stadium. We met with staff from the Ministry of Sport before taking the pitch ourselves with a group of schoolboys. The next hour was full of boisterous play, even while few of the boys spoke English and none of the Americans spoke more than two words of Swahili, but play together we did. A soccer ball in our midst, a few bilingual instructions from the coach, and we were off.

    That night, we drove to the field next to the prison, a scene that looked suddenly very familiar.

    We arrived to find energetic young boys running around, who immediately engaged our players. The sheer joy of seeing our players kicking the ball with a group of adorable six year old boys set the tone. Slowly, the Queens showed up, and there was a little bit of magic in the air. Onto the field strutted Riziki, a powerful presence in the movie and on the field. There was Messi too—another movie “star” who we were now meeting in person, almost seven months after we’d met her on screen. We mixed up the teams so that Zanzibaris and muzungus from America were on both teams, tossed the ball into the middle and were underway. The soccer was fast paced, and attracted a big crowd of passers-by –women in colorful hijabs dotted the perimeter. Men and children were cheering and clapping.

    Five minutes into the game, I found out that, however good-natured these women were, this was not just for fun, as my feet got swept out from under me and my opponent went zipping off with the ball that was no longer in my possession.  At age thirteen, my daughter was the youngest player, and, at age forty-nine, I’d lost more than a step or two. After what seemed like an hour, their coach, who was our referee, blew the whistle to signal halftime….

    One of the parents who was part of our group watched her daughter from the sidelines, as she had countless times before:

    As a parent whose daughter has been playing soccer since she was five, on recreation teams, travel and town teams, club teams and high school varsity teams, and will be playing in college this fall, I have been on the sidelines of hundreds and hundreds of soccer games. This one was different, and one I’ll always remember. With the sun beating down on us, the dirt kicking up, the little boys running with big smiles all around the field, this moment illustrated what I’ve always known to be true– that soccer is a bridge. It’s like a language everyone can speak, as soon as they can kick a ball. It matters little if the players are the same color, come from different geographical places, or religious ones, whether you’re a spectator or a player, soccer breaks down impenetrable barriers and makes a safe place for people to communicate.

    The African sun was making it hard on us, but on we played, back and forth, chattering away in Swahili and English, most of which we didn’t understand, but conversing in soccer, which we all did together. Finally, the whistle blew with a 5-5 tie. We pulled together for pictures and noticed a large crowd had gathered to see the strong woman playing soccer and the American muzungus who had joined them.

    It was the first, but not the last, game we would share.

    Two days later, Fatma Ahmed, our wondrous guide, took our team bus to another field, this one smaller, with a telephone pole planted almost exactly in the middle. A few minutes later, the Women Fighters team showed up. Again, we mixed the teams. Again the soccer was both fun and hard fought. And again, the beautiful game was the common language with us all. Afterwards, as we began to gather in the fading light for a picture, Fatma introduced us to a friend, and casually mentioned she was the coach for the Zanzibar women’s national team. Indeed.

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  • Harvard Women Juggle Across Continents

    Harvard juggles3May 13th 2013:  Harvard Women’s Soccer team has just joined coaches and players from Liberia, Columbia, Haiti and Ghana by participating in CAC’s Juggles Across Continents initiative. All of our partner programs around the world will be participating in this program. Our goal is to reach 1,000,000 juggles by the end of 2013 ! The Harvard women’s soccer players have together added 4083 juggles to our total of more than 37,000 juggles for the beginning of 2013. Just like the Harvard women, you can help us reach our goal by joining other players all over the world to create lasting social change through soccer ! To learn more about how you can get involved, check our website.

    Harvard’s involvement with CAC is not limited to the Juggles Across Continents initiative. The Harvard soccer community’s efforts have played 13855_428811610534924_268624553_nan important role in the success of our programs. Since 2009, more than 20 players and alumi from the Harvard men and women’s soccer teams have volunteered their time and skills to work at different Coaches Across Continents programs in Africa, South America and Asia. Assistant athletic director Tim Wheaton also traveled to Africa in 2012 to work with one of our soccer for social impact programs. Check out our ”Crimson Across Continents” facebook album to see pictures of Harvard players and alumni in countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Columbia, Haiti and India.

    Harvard juggles1The Harvard athletic community has also joined efforts off the field to raise awareness and funds for Coaches Across Continents. In the spring season of 2012, the Harvard men’s soccer team hosted a match against Cape Verde to benefit Coaches Across Continents and the Cape Verdean Football Association. For the past few years the Harvard Varsity Club and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee have organized an Annual Charity Ball and 100% of the proceeds from this event benefit Coaches Across Continents.

  • Meet the New Coaches

    Meet Addie Cartan
    Favorite soccer team:  Barcelona
    Favorite player: Messi
    Favorite movie:  The Wedding Date
    Favorite food:  Thai Food, Pad Thai
    Who will win Euro 2012?  Sweden
    What you are most looking forward to with your volunteering?  Meeting young soccer  players and helping them to become more confident as soccer players and as leaders.

    Interesting fact(s) about you:  Played four years of college soccer, am currently a sixth grade teacher in USA, enjoy cooking almost more then playing soccer

    Addie will be working alongside coaches Emily Lambert and Brian Suskiewicz in Liberia with Soccer Ambassadors for Christ.

    Meet Lauren Urke
    Favorite soccer team: Chelsea F.C.
    Favorite player: Messi
    Favorite movie: Despicable Me
    Favorite food: Dark Chocolate
    Who will win Euro 2012? Italy
    Funniest moment on the soccer field: Playing an inter-squad scrimmage for my high school      team   in a batman costume when we had practice on Halloween.
    What you are most looking forward to with your volunteering? I am looking forward to using a passion of my own to help others.  I want to get to know people from different walks of life to gain a better understanding of the world around me. Most of all, I want to improve the lives of those I am working with through meaningful relationships and experiences.

    Interesting fact(s) about you: I am a twin in a family with two sets of twins (and I’m from the Twin Cities). I enjoy playing and teaching violin, reading, skiing, and spending time with my family and friends.

    Lauren will be working with two CAC partners in Uganda; Buwate Youth Sports Academy and Kampala School of Excellence Ministries.

    Meet Peyton Johnson
    Favorite soccer team: Arsenal FC
    Favorite player: Cesc Fabregas
    Favorite movie: Love Actually
    Favorite food: Chipotle Burrito Bowls
    Who will win Euro 2012? Spain
    Funniest moment on the soccer field: When I was dribbling the ball on a breakaway and a girl pulled down my shorts to my knees. Embarrassing and funny in hindsight.
    What you are most looking forward to with your volunteering? I’m looking forward to living in a totally new country and meeting all of the awesome local volunteers who are working to better their communities.

    Interesting fact(s) about you: I love peanut butter, and I can’t touch my toes.

    Peyton will also be working in Uganda with CAC partners Buwate Youth Sports Academy and Kampala School of Excellence Ministries.