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A Village Soccer Game
Friday, 31 January 2014 Written by Filip Volarević

A Village Soccer GameThis year, during the winter school break my friend and I decided to leave Zagreb and travel to the Padri Vjeko Vocational Training Centre in Rwanda. We wanted to experience culture and lifestyle unlike the one we know in most major cities and countries of the world. It took us some time to adjust to just strolling down the dust filled streets of Kivumu village.

The long stares, as well as the genuine smiles and greetings that were offered to us by passers-by took us some time to adjust to. At first, for us, it was unusual because in the cold heart of Zagreb everyone is minding their own business and ignoring anyone else beside them. It takes time to adapt and to start enjoying the heartwarming greetings and little gestures that were offered by the Kivumu people. The smiles that our presence alone put on the faces of the little children and even adults, is just priceless.

One day we were strolling down some familiar roads in Kivumu when some children started following us. We didn’t think much of it at first because it had happened before. After some time, more and more children added on to the group of kids following us. A few of them knew the basics of English so we started talking to them. They asked us if we had a soccer ball and invited us to play a game with them at their soccer stadium. Unsurprisingly, their soccer stadium was a grass-covered valley between two neighboring hills. We went home to get the ball and as we exited our rooms, a large group of children of all ages awaited us, all eager to play ‘football’. Most of the kids knew one or two words in English so working together, they managed to make up full sentences and in that way we divided into teams and went over the rules. We took off our flip-flops and used them to mark the goals. Children of all ages joined the game.

Anybody who happened to walk by us and had the desire to play could just join in the game. For two hours we played in the blistering sun with the village children. After soccer they all huddled up in a circle around us and started asking questions. They were interested in the hair on our arms, the braces on our teeth, our ages, etc. We tried to converse and we learned some of their words, as did they some of ours. To every answer we gave, they giggled and appeared awestruck in amazement because it was so unusual for them.

We all have some prejudice towards the children of Africa, at least we certainly did. We were warned that they would try to steal from us and beg for whatever they can. And we were told that it’s not their fault; that they simply have so little, that they do it to survive. But these kids were different -- all they asked us for was to come back another day and play football with them again. Since that day we have met them many times and greeted them with smiles and waves, in the way that all Kivumu people greet one another.

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