16 February 2008

Eli's Birthday Surprise

During our day in Zarqa, the girls at Sukhneh Preparatory School surprised Eli with a birthday song...happy 23rd, Mr. Sinkus.

Back to Kickabout's visit to Sukhneh

She Plays, We Play

14 February 2010 - Wadi Rum is a beautiful desert about 50 km north of the Red Sea port of Aqaba and a tourist hotspot where visitors can stay in Bedouin tents and venture out into the desert to see Lawrence of Arabia’s cave amidst an incredible landscape of towering rock formations.

It is also the site of the Disi School for Girls, a primary and secondary public school in this impoverished community. They are not refugees but Principal Suhad jumped at the opportunity last year to incorporate Right To Play’s Coach-to-Coach program into her school. As a psychology scholar, she doesn’t hesitate to express the importance of sport for development.

“This program reflects very well on the kids. One girl in particular, Bayan, was very stubborn and did not cooperate well with others. Now she has improved her ability to work in a team environment, but more importantly, she has improved in class as a student.”

We arrive just in time for Ms. Tammam, a 26-year-old English teacher and Right To Play coach, to begin a 45-minute program with a group of sixteen girls ranging in age from 13 to 15. A conservative community, hijabs are expected, while many teachers cover everything but their hands and eyes. Although we are dressed liberally in comparison, there are no judgmental or condescending glares, only warm faces and open hearts. After a warm-up game of tag, Ms. Tammam takes the girls through a series of stretches. We are here on football day, the favorite among both students and staff. The group is taught passing and after a couple of drills, every gathers together in a small circle. Before finishing the session with a big game, teamwork and attitude are discussed interactively.

When the game begins it is obvious that the passion for sport exists here at Disi School. What they lack in technical ability they more than make up for in athleticism, enthusiasm, and competitive spirit. But more evident is their appreciation for the opportunity to compete and be an athlete on a team. While most of the girls play with their brothers at home, this Right To Play program at school is the only other place they can play. After the session ends I ask the girls what they love about this program. While most say they like both the fitness aspect and the feeling of winning, all of the girls want to show that football isn’t only for boys.

Nariman, one of the 14-year-olds, simply says to me, “Football increases our ability to cooperate. I love the spirit of sport…and I also love the enthusiasm we have.” And their smiles all agree…

Before we leave Principal Suhad makes cardamom coffee for all of us and reflects on the session. She brought opportunity to the young girls of Disi School and with a gleam in her eye she says to me in perfect English that now she wants a teacher’s football class.

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We Never Outgrow our Right to Play

10 February 2010 - Right To Play’s motto is “look after yourself, look after one another”. During our time in Jordan, we have noticed kids taking care of one another. Be it older siblings feeding and cleaning the youngins’ or budding buddies walking to school hand-in-hand, there seems to be strong camaraderie that helps inch each another along.” It’s a good rule to live by and we’ve definitely seen this saying in action these last few days.

We arrived at Sukhneh Preparatory School and found a meticulously organized gym class of young ladies ready to play. These girls were happy to learn, giving each other (and Eli) high fives all around. They must take after their Right To Play-trained P.E. teacher, as she was the most openly athletic woman we’ve met in Jordan.

As a role model, she proudly exhibited her enjoyment of soccer as both a woman and an adult. Some find work and play difficult to juggle in their grown-up years, but this gym teacher finds simple balance by literally juggling - the soccer ball, that is.

Eli’s birthday festivities continued well into the day with a stop at Zarqa Preparatory School (where he got a surprise birthday song). The school, made up of over 1,000 Palestinian refugees, was an incredible example of community cohesion in action. These kids were a talented bunch in their own right, demonstrating glints of individual athletic aptitudes, but the Zarqa boys moved as a team and stopped to pick fallen teammates up off the blacktop. Right To Play coaches and school staff members looked on approvingly and jumped in when teaching moments arose. The greater student body crowded the asphalt to get a look at the game, some claiming spots on balconies and other high objects to get a bird’s eye view.

Those at Zarqa Prep were quick to adopt us as their own, celebrating Eli’s birthday as if they had known him since his day of birth.

How many 23rd birthday parties include a day full of recess?

Playing soccer all day long seemed fitting for Mr. Sinkus’ special day; everyone knows he’s a big kid at heart.

Aren’t we all?

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Irbid: Raring and Ready to Go

8 February 2010 - Our arrival in Irbid marked Kickabout’s first project site visit and the first opportunity to unload the lonesome goal posts we lugged atop our car throughout Europe. Apt to quell our soccer starvation immediately, Right To Play coordinated a day full of kicking about.

As we pulled up to the Karmel Club’s Community Center bright eyed and bushytailed, we knew we weren’t the only ones anxious to knock the ball around in our morning session. Boys in droves descended upon the large, open field to meet the Landcruiser. Throughout the day, we had the privilege of learning more about the Irbid community from Right To Play youth leader, Mr. Mahmoud Saïd. At first glance, we saw enthusiastic kids who were eager to play, and we asked why Right To Play was working in his community. Mr. Saïd spoke about providing a safe space for children to play and just be kids again. The community is made up of predominantly Palestinian refugees, and their access to healthy and positive lifestyle choices is limited.

Right To Play not only provides the boys and girls at the Karmel Club with a chance to play and learn, but also real opportunities to become leaders in their community.

Back on the pitch, Lorrie and Eli led a skills clinic where Lorrie, reprising her role as a Right To Play Athlete Ambassador, infused life lessons into the training activities. Within a few minutes, the boys of Karmel Club wanted to challenge Lorrie and Eli to a friendly match, anxious to play with a world-class athlete (and Eli).

At session’s end, Lorrie and Eli stumbled off the field riding a new found wave of adrenaline-fueled momentum with smiles on faces, sweat on brow, and reinvigorated from hibernation thanks to the energy of the boys.

The kids in the afternoon session were just as ebullient as our morning bunch, but faced an additional obstacle in getting the chance to play the world’s most popular game. They were girls. Showcasing a passion for football that rivaled if not surpassed the boys, we quickly noticed that our giddy group of female footballers was drawing quite an audience.

As our time together unfolded, it became apparent that females are still establishing themselves as accepted athletes within the culture. The high, protective walls of the playground became lined with little boys peeping within minutes. Standing on the fortification looking down on the girls’ training, these small onlookers did nothing to hide their curiosity, openly calling to other friends and brothers to join in a look-see.

A Right To Play coordinator could sense that we didn’t know what to make of the multiplying gaggle of boys and she explained that sportswomen remain somewhat of a spectacle. It is much more common to see males playing soccer and there is intrigue surrounding women in action due to the lack of exposure. The way these girls played – grabbing jerseys and celebrating goals on high?

Let’s just say that they could have had us fooled.

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