After the intermural match between GHEI’s Early Childhood Literacy class and the regular young patrons of the library last month, library administrator Lawrence and education program manager Happy were impressed. On the uneven, rutted ground in front of the library, these kids were showing some serious talent.
|The Team Bus|
I was in the office after the match as ECL teacher Saga, and Happy and Lawrence all conversed feverishly about the game. It was getting intense, each were gesturing more wildly. What they were arguing about was not the game, but the future of the team. The three men had big ideas.
Kojina, a nearby village, practically next door to Humjibre (where we have expanded our malaria program), was going to be the first match for a new, combined and refined GHEI football team. Kojina has only one primary school so playing our ECL students of the same age was a good match...or so we thought.
Word of the match travelled fast and the students and teachers in both villages were getting excited. While Lawrence and Happy were planning logistics with the Kojina teachers, Saga found some uniforms. They were a little big, but effective nonetheless.
On Friday December 9th , students ran from school to GHEI so they were sure to be on the team. A dream team of mixed ECL and Library students was controversially assembled. This was when the Svengalis of the team got to work: Lawrence handled the team management, Happy handled the transport, and Saga took to impromptu training. It seemed like the three grown men who were managing a kids football team were more excited than the kids were…
|Also, a truck full of filtered water, ready to hydrate|
A large group of players and spectators assembled. The group walked up to the main road and everyone piled into the back of a blue pickup truck. In true tradition, the truck drove through town once at a slow speed, singing and chanting so that everyone in Humjibre who was on the street knew an important match was about to take place. The truck boisterously rumbled down the road with the excited high pitched cheers from the dozen young voices and the maniacal rallying cries of team managers Happy, Saga, and Lawrence. Kojina residents must have been terrified.
Once we arrived in Kojina, the team was given a spot to put on uniforms. Lawrence took over as coach, and drew up elaborate strategies. As the teams took to the field all the spectators gathered around the goals of their team to wave branches, yell support and continuously sing at the top of their lungs. The three masterminds paced up and down the sidelines with their players, and yelled furiously. Happy gestured aggressively towards openings in the defence, Saga screamed encouragement to the players, and Lawrence hoarsely tried to remind the players of the 4-3-3 team arrangement.
Health program assistant Mensah was the referee. Which would have been a conflict of interest had he not called a good game and also, crucially, had we not lost 3-4. The spirits of the youngsters seemed to be a little deflated but upbeat; all in all, they had a good time. Team managers Happy, Saga, and Lawrence on the other hand looked like they took it harder than anyone. They were subdued on the ride home, and on arriving in Humjibre they immediately retired to a drink spot to begin drawing up plans for a rematch, a training schedule, league matches, and who knows, maybe some sponsorship deals.