• Putting Words Into Action

    November 21st. CAC Global Citizen Joseph Lanzillo described his experiences working with IDYDC in Iringa, Tanzania.

    The city of Iringa is fortunate enough to have a FIFA-sponsored turf field nestled into one of the rocky ridges surrounding the town, where young men from the area gather for a 6 v 6 match every morning. They play without keepers so instead you must hit either goalpost to score, and they rotate 3-4 teams if there enough players. The games are fast paced and can feature some incredibly precise finishing ability. Those not playing lounge on the side wall overlooking the neighborhood on the slope below, where the equatorial sun glimmers off the tin roofs of the buildings. As the games run, other young men filter through to watch and chat with their friends on the sideline, before all pack up to go their separate ways for the day. It is an enviable morning routine; a smooth blend of exercise, community, and scenic beauty – pleasures of life that anyone could appreciate having combined on a daily basis.

    The same sense of community was shared through our daily sessions at this field with local volunteers for the Iringa Development of Youth, Disabled, and Children Care (IDYDC). All of the participants in our program were passionate about improving their programs for children, for which they volunteered as coaches, teachers and mentors for young people in the area. At midmorning every day, the group took a long break, where a few women of IDYDC brought tea and a few breakfast treats for everyone to enjoy. For about a half hour each morning, the participants, men and women who ranged in age from 19 to 59, socialized together over the meal. On the field, the group was congenial and enthusiastic. Throughout the week, it was clear that not only were they already familiar with each other through their work with IDYDC and enjoyed working together, they also shared the same passion for improving their own coaching skills and their local programs. It was inspiring to see their shared commitment to the larger work of their organization, and even more so to observe their openness to new ideas and willingness to engage with the issues in Iringa.

    On Monday, as participants made teams for one of the games, there was audible clamor for gender equality on the teams. I hadn’t expected such a deliberate effort or even awareness of the gender inequality that plagues most of the world, and was impressed to see that this was on their radar. Their effort indicated some previous exposure to and willingness to accept such progressive ideas, which seemed to be an encouraging sign for the week’s program. But did the reality of the society in their community reflect the ideas they seemed to support during the program? Who played in the local pick-up games every morning? Men. Why are there no women playing football in the morning? Because they were working in the fields instead. While 20-30 men and boys gathered to play on a daily basis – many of them just loitering near the field – the adjacent land had several women, some of whom appeared to be beyond child-rearing years, toiling away watering and picking crops. Of course, while this one anecdotal scenario does not unequivocally prove inequality between men and women, it is a dramatic example of the disparity that our programs work to bring to the attention of the participants.

    Indeed, just a short time after the participants so nobly divided into equal teams of men and women, the coaches noticed that men were often taking control of the game and in some instances preventing women from participating in it as fully. During the partner scrimmage game (a normal football game where each “player” on the team is actually a pair of people holding hands), Nick made an example out of one couple (conscientiously arranged to be male and female) where the man denied the woman an opportunity to take a free kick. When he pointed out that their on-field actions did not reflect the ideals of gender equality they had been so vociferous about when making teams, there was a collective moment of consideration, especially among the men. The women too, seemed slightly surprised to have that incongruity called out, but quickly afterward seemed empowered to have some backing to their very real concerns about inequality. Through a series of conversations that week, we discovered some of the intricacies of the gender imbalance in Iringa, and discovered the participants’ collective willingness to address these issues. But at various other moments throughout the week, coaches pointed out instances of participant’s actions and choices that, without noticing it themselves, undermined their stated ideals of gender equality. For several of the men, some of these comments seemed to prompt them to consider how actions and attitudes in their everyday lives were unwittingly promoting very traditional gender roles, and it was exciting to watch them think through how they could make different choices every day that would contribute to a better environment for women in their community. Though the path to complete gender parity in Iringa is long and difficult, the participants’ collective willingness to acknowledge the issue and their efforts to better understand the changes they could make to address it are encouraging signs that seem to show that IDYDC volunteers will be able to have an even stronger impact on their community. I believe that someday, there will be girls playing with the men in the early morning pick-up games in Iringa, and our CAC program there this past week will have been one of many conversations and steps along the way that gradually brought about change in the community.


  • Pushing And Pulling

    CAC SDL coach Ruben Alvarado blogs from Iringa, Tanzania about draughts and freedom of expression.

    November 19th 2015. “You have to understand the game, you cannot just play like that.” Since I don’t have to do anything, the command wasn’t becoming, but the (quite hidden) wisdom behind it did stick.

    I’d just lost my first official game of Draughts (Checkers or Damas Chinas in America) on an improvised table, outside of a market where they have mountains of little fish for sale, in Tanzania. I lost in about 47 seconds. Around the 31st second, one of the 4 guys surrounding the rout started making unconventional mouth noises after my last move. “You made a great play, which he acknowledges, keep it up” I thought. Wrong suspicion, he foresaw my defeat. In the next move, my opponent ate 3 of my pieces (in one play!) and won the game.

    Of course, in order to enjoy and engage in a game (whatever intention you hold when playing), you must (not as a command but as an inherent requirement for composition as in in order to vote in an official election for a president in México you must be a Mexican national) master, in a sufficient level, the technique that will allow you to. They gave me a second chance to play. I decided to focus and take as much time needed for every play. My hopes lived on, for 2 minutes, in the dance with my opponent. Breathing before moving, guarding my pieces, envisioning next moves, it all seemed brighter. Suddenly, my self-declared “helper” (because I see a big difference in giving and forcing to receive), the wise man of the original advice, started moving the pieces for me, without asking. I did not say anything, complain or request him to stop, because it felt like if I let it happen, it would lead me to a deeper understanding of the game, not Draughts, but the game of control.


    The FIFA Football for Hope Center in Iringa hosted our second week of trainings in Tanzania. We played Mingle Mingle, because we love Mingle Mingle. Love it so much that we played 6 different types of it, including one created by local coaches. Among the differences between them we could find 2 major similarities: Fun and no “Pushing and Pulling”. Let me bring light to the darkness of doubt to you, my dear reader, that don’t know what Pushing and Pulling means in this context. In Mingle Mingle, we, the group, dance and mingle (of course). Then the leading coach asks, verbally or non verbally, for something from the group, that usually involves getting physically together. For example, “make an elephant of 3 people”, “get together in groups of 8”, “make a family” (whatever this might mean) or “3+9-6”. During this game we often come across people pulling and/or pushing each other in order to complete the task. We don’t think that all physical contact signifies aggression, however we use this specific social dynamic to start a conversation about choice, power, violence, and whatever emerges from the group. We acknowledged the group, not as in “well behaved, let me put this star on your forehead”, but as people loving other people finding harmonious and non violent ways to communicate and manifest their intentions.

    Later on in the week we had an intense but respectful sharing about religion and politics, started by our game “Freedom of Expression”. No need for any type of authority to rule in the space. Respect emerged from the practice of honest listening. By this I mean, listening not to respond but to comprehend, to connect. We explored contrasting ideas, some of them even opposite from each other, however, no one tried to “be right”, pull towards “my truth is the truth” or pushed anyone out of the boundaries of that space out of fear of difference, even when things got uncomfortable. We didn’t arrive to an agreement, we didn’t intend to. We just kept playing together.

    From my perspective, every not agreed upon experience of Pushing and Pulling equals violence. Intended or “unintended”.  Every act of violence finds its roots in the belief that we exist separate from each other. Difference, variety and uniqueness do not mean separation. “I” violate you by “taking away” something from “you”, so I have more than you or you don’t have as much as I. Oil, sense of freedom, the value of your perspective, food, physical capacity, happiness, money, the floor when you speak, hope, your birth right to fail, the control/direction of your experience, you name it. If we want a new culture to arise from the ashes of this old and obsolete ecosystem we must (again, not as a command but as an inherent requirement) intentionally create room for direct experience.

    In my experience as a coach/educator, this has translated into facilitating things that I don’t feel comfortable with, since they confronted my own belief system. As long as they don’t attempt against safety, legality or violate others, I count them as a fare exploration, even if  thoughts like “I know better” or “I have tons of experience in this matter” or “I know that it can’t have a happy ending…” crossed my mind.

    I’ve stopped believing that I can “allow” people to do or not do things. I refuse to believe that I can control other people’s experience. If chosen as part of a group, I will support, teach, guide, correct, share or whatever the group or individual asks from me. Influence does not mean imposed direction.

    Other “Pushing and Pulling” cultural/social forces and architectures play a heavy role in learning processes. Punishment and reward based dynamics, such as competition, hierarchy, fear of failure, fear of success, etc. A lot of times I replicated this cycle of impoverishment because I didn’t see them, like that fish that says to the other fish “The water is lovely today” and the other fish responds “what is water?. They almost passed unnoticed, but caused equal harm. As a coach I work consciously not to bring any of these into the spaces that I belong to, since I think they direct from structure.

    I will not feel coherent offering something to another human being that I don’t experience directly, so I work in the same way within myself and in my personal interactions.

    Sometimes I fail, but at least I see them now, and my radar works better every day.

    I lost in my third and fourth games of Draughts. These times against CJ, our beloved volunteer and friend.

    However, I moved all of my pieces, the best way to play, and lost.

    In order to evolve, we must move our own pieces, without accepting any Pushing or Pulling.

    PS- I won the fifthIMG_0971.

  • A Week to Remember

    December 5, 2014. Volunteer Coach, Keren Lavi, from Israel partner, Mifalot, joins CAC On-Field in Iringa, Tanzania and write about her first experience with CAC outside of her country. 

    I always knew my first time to Africa would have to be an unforgettable one, after traveling around 3 continents “IT’S TIME FOR AFRICA”.  I arrived to a motel in Dar es Salaam where I waited for Nico (CAC’s local partner and first ever Community Impact Coach) to pick me up for an amazing field week at the new ‘Football for Hope Center’ in Iringa. The morning we left to the bus I happen to fall down the stairs with my suitcase and twist my ankle! How am I going to get through this week now?! I stood up and walked with Nico to the bus, I was ok. The bus station was full with people and buses, I have no idea how he found the right bus but I guess every country has its own order they follow. We get to the bus and Nico goes down to find a cold water bottle for my ankle, after a few seconds I realize the bus starts to leave with no sign for Nico! “Nico, where is Nico” I shout in the bus, the bus has already left the station, I get to the driver “please stop! Nico is missing!” as if he knows who is Nico and that this is my first time in Africa and I have no idea where and how to get to the place I am supposed to get to. The bus driver stopped on the side road, meanwhile I start to panic and cry having no idea what to do. After 5 minutes of total panic Nico arrives hitchhiking on a motorcycle sweating with a cold water bottle in his hand!

    I started my visit at the peak which only continued to climb higher and higher. I met Kelly and Marcus, CAC’s team, when we arrived to Iringa – both seem to be born to the field of football for social impact! I was honored to see them coach and to coach with them! They immediately made me feel part of the team and I am thankful for that! As I already mentioned Nico took great care of me, I must say he is the best local partner an organization could ask for, not only does he organize the coaching seminars and talks to all local partners he is an inspiring coach and person that really connects with CAC’s vision! Working with such awesome people this week was a real treat! The local coaches we met were all part of Iringa Development of Youth, Disabled and Children Care (IDYDC) which hosts the FIFA Football for Hope Center. We had a week full of games, laughs, serious talks, coach-backs, and dancing mingle mingle at any chance of the day! One of the most memorable parts for me was having kids around the field almost 24/7! They will not leave the place till it was dark! It is amazing to see how a football field becomes the center of a community and the safest place for kids to play. I am loaded with energy to get back to my organization in Israel –

    My name is Keren Lavi and I work for Mifalot Education and Society Enterprises which is an NGO located in Israel. We also work globally in order to create social change via the football field. After training with CAC twice in Israel it was my time to join them in another country in order to learn and feel the work CAC does across the continents… My role at Mifalot is to develop the international programs. We provide educational curriculums and share our best practices, this is why partnering with CAC in order to exchange knowledge about football for social change is not only a privilege but an opportunity to grow and spread the love we share to the game and to the impact it can have on people all around the world. Mifalot share with CAC this vision and I can only hope for both organizations to keep growing and touch many coaches around the world.