Wednesday 9 October 2013

Football, Football, Football!

Football has never been my favourite game. When I was at school I was always in the 2nd eleven, the so called 'All Stars'. I can remember one moment of near glory in a home match one time. I was getting so irritated by our collective incompetence that I decided to take matters in to my own hands (feet). The ball came to me and I dribbled up the field towards the goal with focussed determination; tackled a few times I refused to give up the ball. Within range of the back line I gave the ball a mighty boot and found that I had misjudged the position of the goal by a good five yards. My effort was mentioned by the teacher at the end of the game; you can judge from that how bad our collective performance was.

But I am happy to admit that many people love football. As a substitute for international, interracial, inter-tribal or even inter village blood-letting it certainly has its plus points. Here in Uganda, the English premier league is followed with proper seriousness (most people support Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea). The National Team (go Uganda Cranes) is followed with pride but can not be said to be dominant.

At a grass roots level boys play it pretty much anywhere and girls can be encouraged to play it in Primary School. In Secondary School, girl's football is growing and the boys are, of course, highly competitive.

One of the the national staff here, Francis, is a keen footballer (and high scoring striker in the town team). When he can get the resources he likes to run football clinics to improve the technical skills and fitness of the local teams. This time it was with a lot of help from a soccer enthusiast, Curtis, who came (for the third time) with a visiting medical group from Canada, where they call it soccer. They took the opportunity to give a talk from the Bible, which is always listened to with great respect . And then to stage a couple of friendly tournaments. When the Canadians were here we had an all day tournament for four men's teams and then yesterday it was two secondary school girls teams that met at the town ground. The picture is from that match.

Almost everyone here says that getting the youth into football is a good thing. It gives them something else to do, think and talk about than the opposite sex, drinking, troublemaking and crime. It teaches personal self discipline and commitment, the ability to both win and to loose, depending on others (and forgiving their failures as they forgive yours) and much more. The grass-roots football here is mainly run by Christian people who have a heart for the youth, love the game and see it as a way of doing good in the community. They respond well to any effort to get teams together improve performance and compete. One of the reasons they are so keen to join in is that their own resources are so thin. Most players are barefoot. The club may only have one worn-out ball (soon to expire) and no team strip. They get a little out of joining in with a competition, especially if they win.

Anyway, to cut a long story short I just want to say that there are enormous possibilities in this 'Football ministry' for the right person or people to reach out to the youth here in Pader District. It does not have to be only football; volleyball is also keenly contested and (to a lesser extent) net ball. And if anyone has a source of new footballs, volleyballs, net-balls and/or team strips (even if they are second hand) then please let me know.

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