• Using Sports to Unlock the Conversation

    June 9th 2017. CAC Global Citizen Joseph Lanzillo blogs about working with the Ministry of Sport in Pemba, Tanzania.

    From Unguja, Nico and I made the short trip to the island of Pemba (also part of the Zanzibar archipelago), where we joined Markus for the next week’s program. From living in Tanzania, I’d heard of Pemba to be one of the most exotic and remote vacation destinations imaginable: a remote tropical island, unblemished by the tourism industry that has overtaken parts of the busier Unguja island. When I told friends in Tanzania that I was to spend a week in Pemba, I saw the jealousy in their eyes, assuming that I was off for nothing more than a beach holiday. While it’s true that Pemba is among the more comfortable CAC program destinations, it, like any CAC program, is no holiday.

    On Pemba, it is not uncommon for men to have multiple wives, many of whom are married as teenagers. The average woman bears at least 6 children. Though a man may have dozens of children depending on him for support, there are few economic opportunities available to make that possible. In keeping with religious-based tradition, women are sometimes not permitted to leave the home – the husband does all the family’s external business. For the women who do go out in public, it is unusual to see anything more than their faces and hands. Domestic abuse of women and children is seldom seen and even less openly discussed. Sexual abuse of children is known to exist in theory, but rarely traced to a specific person or institution (school, mosque, etc). It is safe to say that Pemba has its share of social issues – issues that, over the course of the week, our participants became more willing to acknowledge and discuss.

    On Monday morning, though nearly a quarter of our 40 something participants had attended our program in a previous year, there were many among the remaining fraction of attendees who seemed unsure of what they had shown up for, some perhaps even a little bit skeptical of what they could possibly gain from the three of us. For some, tactical football instruction seemed to be the priority, rather than any sort of social impact coaching. But despite this, throughout the week, I admired the groups’ receptiveness to our discussion and their increasing willingness to listen and participate in the program. Of course, the curriculum itself is the key to opening our discussions and drawing people into the whole program. It is what makes CAC’s work possible anywhere: using something as fun and engaging as sports to direct a group’s energy to focus on heavier topics that, like sexual abuse of children, can be considerably less fun to engage with. The group began to appreciate the subtle ways that sports can be used to teach valuable off-field lessons. I observed several knowing grins and nods of understanding every time we pointed out the ways that the games reinforce using your voice, as the idea of encouraging children to use their voice seemed to be one that appealed the most to our group. At our closing ceremony on Friday, some of those who had been the least involved on Monday vociferously expressed their satisfaction with the program and their gratitude to the coaches for working with their group, and I was proud to have witnessed their transformations over the week. Though Pemba still has a number of social issues its leaders continually grapple with, I am confident that with every class of CAC participants, there are a few more voices in the community who have the confidence and inspiration to push for the changes they would like to see on their island.

  • Thank You CAC: Humbling Words From a Pemba Participant

    May 18th 2016. This blog comes to us from the words of a participant (Hassan) in his speech to CAC staff and guests during the certificate ceremony in Pemba, in partnership with the Zanzibar Football Association, the Ministry of Sports, and Save the Children.

    Honorable Minister of Sports, Assistant Minister of Sports, Our coaches Mr. Nick and Madam Nora:

    First of all we would like to thank all of you for conducting good, well and enjoyable training for one week. Apart from that we make a promise in front of you that we will protect children and we will stand in front of any who struggle for their rights.

    Our trainers:

    We have special thanks to you for your cooperation during training and general speaking we can’t deny that we enjoy your tactics, techniques, and your innovation. You have bring us in a safe space and now we will use your knowledge and experience we get from you and impart it to our children.

    Uncountable thanks should be received to the first coach in the world, Mr. Nicky, for organizing us and make us to feel free all over the time during the training. Throughout the training we learned that:

    • Women can do well in sports if they will be supported
    • We understand that children have knowledge
    • We learn that we should give our children choice
    • We learn that we ought to talk with children and not talk to children

    Frankly speaking we have learned a lot and we will use all them for social impacts.

    Special thanks I send it as my reward to Madam Nora – for teaching us Kuku dance, a lot we may forget… but never Kuku dance.

    We have nothing to give our coaches for excellent work they have done to us except to tell them: Thank you very much for what you have done and we will use knowledge for social impacts.

    Thanks; Goodbye; See you again; Relax and have a safe journey.



  • USA Soccer Hall of Famer Seamus Malin Talks About Planes, Rains and Cones

    US Soccer hall of famer, experienced commentator at World Cups and Olympic Games, and Coaches Across Continents board member, Seamus Malin, writes about his first ever time On-Field with CAC in Zanzibar and Pemba, Tanzania.

    May 21st 2015. When it comes to travel it has been said that “getting there is half the fun”.   Who exactly said that anyway?  Not sure I would like to hear any other nuggets of wisdom from that source. Why? Well let’s just say that getting to Zanzibar, for me, had its moments of drama. In Muscat, Oman on board the flight to Zanzibar we were cheerily told that we would be diverting to Jeddah for refueling as our journey was being lengthened to avoid Yemeni air space where some folks were hurling bombs about! Good call, Oman Air Lines!!

    After a spectacularly successful week on the playing field with CAC staff and fabulous local coaches as well as a charming experience of that exceptional island it was time to head for another island of Tanzania, namely Pemba, for the second week of the program. Back in a plane again, this time a ten seater single engine item from the Air Salaam fleet. Sitting right up front near the pilot I had more experience that I ever want of first hand exposure to a driving rain storm, making an ear-shattering din on the windshield, as we ducked in and out of heavy storm clouds, and our fearless impressive Tanzanian pilot took us through the thirty minutes to the tiny landing strip on Pemba. “Half the fun?”……NOT.

    The soggy arrival was a precursor to a week of continued stormy conditions with lots of intermittent  heavy rain, but the silver lining, as it turned out, was that our promised playing field (the local stadium with artificial grass) was suddenly not available, and our substitute space was a large indoor facility built by Japan for Judo instruction and in fact used for multi-sport purposes. Provided originally as a disappointing second choice to an excellent outdoor facility it turned out to be a gift which we appreciated every rain-drenched day. The floor was covered by scores of thick heavy judo pads, each about 3×5 feet which had to be lifted and stored   –   a first chore for all the coaches as well as CAC staff and which was an instant bonding experience. (Another benefit of our new facility was the nap-time now on offer thanks to these pads piled up on a large stage at the end of the hall and which some staff and  participating coaches utilized during our lunch time breaks. Why not?)

    Then we finally got down to the nuts and bolts of the program, with a new and enthusiastic set of coaches, all but two of whom were male, about which more later. The expertise of Nick and Kelly in our new echo chamber of a facility (the roof was metal, the floor concrete) was put to the test as communication was a challenge, but they rose to the occasion wonderfully. The same can be said for Nick’s mother, Judith, along for the two weeks and a vital contributor with her own seminar sessions on hot button topics of Health and Wellness in the Zanzibar context as well as the vitally important area of Respect for Children and the curse of Abuse- a world wide blight, regardless of how “developed” a nation may claim to be.

    Also along for the two weeks was Nick’s father, Bill, a constant source of encouragement to and appreciation for the local participants, as well, of course, as a walking, living, breathing example of Middlesbrough FC who are, we were daily reminded, the “greatest football club in the world”. Chelsea, Schmelsea!!! Happily Bill and I had a brilliant two weeks of participatory fun and tons of evening laughs over dinner and at football matches on the hotel lounge TV. As a tribute to our Senior Citizen status Bill and I were duly appointed “CONE BOYS” by the head honcho, young Nick!! We were given the massive responsibility of setting out cones properly for the CAC games, being sure the proper supply of balls was readily at hand, and even later in the week awarded the added privilege of tacking up multiple sheets of poster board on the walls with all the notes that Nick, Kelly and Judith had composed for the coaches. Bill and I were all over these tasks; we were a bit frustrated though that the “senior” staff could never seem to understand the subtle difference between “cones” and “discs”. Something they need to work on!  Bill and I are not going to be around for every program, you know!!!

    Another challenge that Bill and I had to cope with was the notable slant in the concrete floor at one point carrying out from the center to the Northwest corner. When a series of balls was set up, they needed strict watching, since, if you turned your back, they would slyly start meandering their way into their favorite hiding corner!! They got away from us once, and sat there in the corner looking smug. We whipped them into shape from then on, I assure you. We also were hard pressed in our poster board duties as the rain was so heavy at times that a few small leaks would appear and the water trickling down the walls loosened the adhesive taping. We supervised this closely (I am downright exhausted now thinking of all the mighty duties that Bill and I handled. I may need a nap. Wish I had one of those judo mats nearby).

    Most importantly, the attending coaches were fabulous, charming, engaged, enthusiastic and willing to take risks. None more so than the two women who began somewhat overwhelmed but who quickly caught the spirit of the program and allowed their inner enthusiasm to become manifest without self-consciousness and in a massively engaging manner for all involved. That was inspiring, deeply moving and memorable. In addition,  the whole group gave it their best shot when it came to creating their own games based on what they had experienced as well as implementing the principles CAC tries to convey and inculcate. I will never forget the simple but evocative exercise that one of the women developed in which her children players would finish their football drill with an exercise of finding their way home safely through various societal threats all enacted by the other participating coaches as she had creatively set them up.  Meanwhile at the other end of the building the other woman coach was leading all the guys in a series of innovative stretches before her program, illustrating confidently despite the constraints of her traditional somewhat limiting clothing. Hugely moving experiences, both.

    Also highly memorable were the literal hours of time many of the participants spent taking notes in their own notepads, sitting on the floor by the walls where the large sheets were hanging. Often we would find them arriving early for this purpose, as the large sheets were left there overnight , and indeed during the lunch breaks they accomplished the same feat , moving around from wall to wall until finished. This enthusiasm and commitment speaks volumes for their passion to contribute in meaningful ways to their own world and most especially to the children coming behind them. This bodes so well for the future, and I feel hugely grateful for the opportunity both to have witnessed and participated in such a moving, heartwarming and immeasurably important journey of life.

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  • Soccer Icon Seamus Malin Heads to Tanzania

    February 4th 2015. Seamus Malin has had an illustrious soccer career. As a journalist and TV announcer he has commentated on seven World Cups, three Olympic Games and countless Champions League matches. He was the broadcast voice of the NY Cosmos in their heyday from 1978 -1984.  And he was inducted into the US National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2005 and remains the only TV commentator elected to that body.

    But this April and May, Seamus is taking his role as a Board Member with Coaches Across Continents to the next level.  Seamus is headed On-Field to work with our partner programs on Unguja and Pemba islands, Tanzania. Here Seamus will work with our partners as they harness the true power of sport for social impact, tackling such issues as corporal punishment which is still legal and practiced there and female empowerment.  Seamus will help these local communities address their cultural and traditional problems so that they can choose their own future through sport.

    Seamus says, ‘together we can help children in developing regions around the world play soccer, learn life skills and become leaders in the community.’

    Seamus is looking for your support of Coaches Across Continents in Tanzania, and has targeted the ambitious goal of $27,000 which is the cost and value of one year-round partnership.  In 2015, Coaches Across Continents will be working in more than 80 communities in 30 countries. Help out this soccer icon today by donating and follow the story of his trip and its impact on these two islands off the Tanzanian mainland.

    Support soccer icon Seamus Malin and Coaches Across Continents create social change in Tanzania


    seamus malin

  • Commitment and Creativity – Pemba coaches are becoming Self-Directed Learners

    May 21, 2014.   A long way from Germany, CAC Coach Markus Bensch describes our work this past week on Pemba Island (Zanzibar, Tanzania).  When Sophie and I arrived on Sunday morning in Pemba we went straight from the airport on an island tour. The whole vegetation was lush green and everything flowered. It felt a bit like paradise and our accommodation was right next to the ocean which gave us a very nice rest in the afternoon, before we started with the program the next day.

    On Monday morning we would welcome 41 coaches to our training of which were 32 returners which means they had participated in our training last year. That made us very happy, because it is exactly what we want, coaches that take part all three years in our Hat-Trick Training and change things in their community step by step for better. We were also very impressed by their commitment during the week. Some of the coaches came earlier to the venue to write up the games we played before the training started, most of the coaches were on time so we could start punctually and the number of participants stayed constant over the week and could work with more than 40 coaches every day.

    Throughout the week we played games that focused on different topics, i.e. how to resolve conflict without using violence, how to find solutions for problems without asking for the answer and how communication and cooperation can help to overcome challenges, both individually and as a group. We also addressed different social issues like environment pollution, gender inequality, violence against children, HIV/AIDS and early pregnancy. The group did a great job when they adapted our “Adebayor makes good choices” game which is about HIV/AIDS prevention into a game that teaches about prevention of early pregnancies.


    Playing football in pairs needs a lot of coordination and communication

    On Friday we had our coach-back day as usual. For us coaches it is always a lot of fun because we can act like participants and even take part in the games and leave the stage to participant coaches to practice the games they invented. We saw great coach-backs from nine different groups and it showed us that each of them made a big step during the last year and throughout the week towards the goal of becoming a self-directed learner. We’re very curious to follow up and hear about their progress throughout the year and we are looking forward to come back in 2015 for the final year of our Hat-Trick Curriculum to support the coaches in developing a more open community that respects and supports the rights of children and woman and that addresses existing issues openly to discuss them and find ways to solve them.

    The two successful weeks on Zanzibar would not be possible without the excellent cooperation with all the implementing partners. We’re happy to say ‘Thank you!’ to Save the Children, The National Sports Council, The Zanzibar Football Association and The Ministry of Education for two wonderful weeks with more than 100 coaches in total that surely will make a difference in the community and in young people’s live that are in their care. We hope that this partnership last for a very long time and we are happy to come back on Zanzibar next year.

    We left Pemba on Friday afternoon to land after a wonderful half an hour flight on Unguja again, because we wanted to go swimming with dolphins on Saturday early morning. We left the hotel at 6am and one hour later we sat on a boat to reach out to the dolphins. The beaches and the water are so beautiful that it felt again like paradise. After a while we spotted the first dolphins. After our driver brought us in position we could even jump into the water and marveled them swimming right next to us. It was wonderful to see the elegance with which these creatures ride the waves and swim through the ocean. Compare to them our movements in the water seem like clumsy movements just to save us from drowning. This experience was a great finish of our two weeks on Zanzibar and I already want to submit a request to Brian our Chief Executive Strategist that I want to come back next year.


    Coaches Across Continents “Lines Game” always causes a lot of confusion and conflict resolution opportunities

  • Do You Know Your Rights?

    May 15, 2014. What an exciting and fun week it has been! Although it started raining heavily from the very moment the shores of Stone Town were in sight and it has not stopped since (I guess that is why they call it the rainy season), it did not discourage the 55 coaches and teachers to show up on Monday, ready to participate in their second annual training with Coaches Across Continents.


    Local coaches invent a game to raise awareness about blind people’s challenges

    The program in Unguja and Pemba, Zanzibar’s two largest islands, stems from an interesting and dynamic partnership between the Zanzibar Football Association, the Zanzibar Coaches Association, the Zanzibar National Sports Council, the Ministry of Education, and Save The Children. All partners were represented at the opening ceremony where the importance of protecting children from abuses was emphasized (violence against children is still the norm). This was perfect since CAC has recently finalized a brand new child rights curriculum and has started to incorporate child protection training as a core part of every CAC program.

    We had the chance to run the training at Amaan stadium, playing games in the mornings on the beautiful turf field with some of Zanzibar’s 20,000 One World Futbols and reviewing games in the classroom in the afternoons. After a quick refresher course of Messi games and Mingle Mingle we gave participants the opportunity to decide what they would be learning during the training, selecting to focus on nutrition, drug abuse, including children with disabilities, and the importance of education and child rights which then became our focus for the week.


    What a great stadium for Coaches Across Continents to work!

    Although all days were comparable to one another in terms of the liveliness, engaging discussions and participants’ good-natured spirit, Wednesday was my favorite day of the week: it was entirely dedicated to child rights and child protection. The morning session games teaching about different child rights preceded an engaging hour and a half long discussion in the afternoon about how we could work together to protect children from suffering abuses on the sports field. The games played in the morning certainly helped fuel the discussion and one teacher even remarked that playing those games with the children could be a solution to protecting their rights.

    The child rights game that is quickly becoming one of my personal favorites is ‘Know Your Rights’.  Players from opposing teams in the center circle have to run to cones representing different child rights. The coach yells out two rights and players from the first team run to the first cone, the others to the second one. The game requires speed but also quick thinking and reaction. For some reason, this game seems to trigger the competitive spirit of even the most reserved players. After a couple of rounds, there was shouting, yelling, encouraging and cheering from all sides. It is hard to describe the exuberance and feeling of pure joy that emanated from the game, but I can easily say that this was one of the most euphoric and energy-filled 30 minutes that I have experienced with Coaches Across Continents. I think that everyone would have been happy to continue on for three more hours. It was a close contest between Belgium and Germany but I have to admit that Germany might have come in victorious.

    Another one of my favorite aspects’ of the week was the presence of strong female leaders who also happened to be excellent football players. Many of them come from the ‘Women’s Fighters’ team and they have been working hard to make female football more popular in Zanzibar: it is now a usual occurrence to see boys and girls playing together around Stone Town. They explained that today, when a girl decides to play football, “it feels normal to her, she does not question it.

    The training came to an end on Friday afternoon, after participants coached games they had invented about nutrition, what makes a healthy life, making good choices, including blind people, and safe spaces in the community. TV, radio and newspaper journalists were present to show the Zanzibar community what wonderful work these local educators are aspiring to. We leave for Pemba, our heads filled with countless memories of laughter and joy, and energized by the motivation and passion of these inspiring coaches; but also convinced that this next week of the partnership will be just as rewarding!


    Unguja (Zanzibar) coaches celebrating after a great week working with Coaches Across Continents!