16 February 2008

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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