We’ve now had 9 hours on the field with the local coaches, and have been working with the local children for several days. Most of the children we’ve seen are from Masakhane, the black township. One of the biggest social issues that the Gansbaai faces is the lack of integration among the black, white, and colored communities. We’ve been addressing this issue, along with violence, HIV, and the environment with the local coaches, and they seem enthusiastic and willing to try to use football to promote change. The football aspect is already well-established, and we’re now showing the coaches different ways to use football for development. The coaches really enjoyed the HIV session we ran yesterday, which uses football games to encourage children to make good choices while laughing and having fun. Coaches across Continents requires that a community have both male and female coaches in order to partner with them, and about 20% of the local coaches at our sessions were women. It is the first time these women have had the opportunity to become coaches and role models for the young girls of their community.
In the afternoons, we have been travelling to a school in the neighboring town of Stanford to coach 12- and 13-year-old girls who have never played a football game before. On Monday, they learned all about Ronaldo and by the time we arrived for our second session, the girls surrounded and greeted us with displays of their well-practiced Ronaldo skills. Their enthusiasm to learn is rewarding for us to see in our quest to encourage more females to play and benefit from the power of sport. The girls loved our session on Marta, the Brazilian sensation who is an inspiration to all female footballers. By the time we left, the girls were singing, dancing, laughing, and practicing their new Marta skills all the way off the field. It is so gratifying for us to see girls always wanting to learn and play more football as we continue to strive for female empowerment.
In the evening sessions – from 3:30 to 5:45 pm – we have been working with under 13 and under 15 year old boys and a couple of coaches that are with us in the morning. Although they were a bit skeptical at first to be coached by three women, they quickly realized that girls can play just as well as boys when they saw us perform the Ronaldo skills. They turned out to be an attentive and enthusiastic group, and they quickly picked up the skills we showed them. On the first day we had about 20 kids, but word must have gotten out that we were there, because on the next day the number was almost doubled, and included more white children and girls. We are hopeful that the efforts of the program to integrate the three separate communities of Gansbaai will be successful.
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