26 February 2010

One World, One Game, One Journey

“Welcome in Africa.” That’s what everyone says here. Welcome in Cairo. Welcome in western desert. Welcome in Egypt.

After about 6000 miles (our odometer is a bit temperamental), we have arrived in on the continent of Africa. We drove like bats out of hell from London onward. Eyes on the prize, we were desperate to get to Egypt so that Kickabout: Africa 2010 could (officially) commence. England, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan were almost blurs in the “Warthog’s” windshield. As we raced through Europe and the Middle East, a voice in the car longingly call out “piiiitch” every time we passed soccer fields and goals, knowing full well that we didn’t have time to stop and play. Yet, we did take a few moments to play. We met incredible people, made new friends, and never met someone who did not want to kickabout when the ball emerged from the car.

Team Kickabout now includes:

A family we met in Turkey on their way to Austria FROM South Africa.

The adorable kids of Cappadocia that you met in an earlier post.

A cobbler in Istanbul who played with us in his high-end shoe store and the oblivious customer who entered the shop mid-play and took a kick at it.

The Jordanian who didn’t think women were capable of keeping up with men on the field. Lorrie schooled him. He blamed his smoking, of course.

A teenage Bedouin boy on a towering rock overlooking the High Monastery of Petra.

A customs officer dressed in fancy dress shoe at the Nuweiba port of entry into Egypt. Nothing gets you through security like a football.

We have seen enough that we could go home now, and the trip would be a story of stories. We’ve witnessed a 9-goal match at Stamford Bridge, played keepy-up at The Coliseum, walked through the dressing room of AC Milan, wandered the streets of Damascus, haggled over the price of a soda in the Sinai, and rode a donkey at Petra. And then there’s the Story of Batch and Erdall.

Yes, the last two months have been a precursor; the pre-season for Kickabout: Africa 2010. But we have already been blessed with seeing the many faces of football. We are amazed at the power a round ball has to open doors, raise hopes, release a smile, and bring strangers together.

As we are welcomed in Africa, we thank all of our new friends , young and old, that have fueled our mad dash to Egypt. Without a doubt, our Kickabout family spans from London to Cairo.

We'll take them all the way to South Africa. We hope you'll come along...

Photo Credits: Eli Sinkus

16 February 2010

Kickabout: Right To Play Jordan

Though Kickabout: Africa 2010 officially kicks off in Egypt, after six weeks on the road we were itching to play some football, visit with coaches, and see some programs in action. We begged our friends at Right To Play for some stops in Jordan to help us warm-up - get the ball moving - and they more than obliged

Three days, five schools...this is Right To Play, Jordan.

8 February 2010
Irbid - Kickabout pulled up to the Karmel Club’s Community Center bright eyed and bushy-tailed, we knew we weren’t the only ones anxious to knock the ball around in our morning session. - Continue

10 February 2010
Zarqa - Kickabout encountered the first good weather of the long drive down, which came just in time for Eli’s 23rd birthday. The day really couldn’t have gone any better: two incredible groups of kids, two schools worth seeing, and too much birthday cake! - Continue

14 February 2010
Wadi Rum - A beautiful desert about 80 km north of the Red Sea port of Aqaba, Wadi Rum is a tourist hotspot where visitors can stay in Bedouin tents and venture out into the desert to see Lawrence of Arabia’s cave. It is also the site of the Disi School for Girls. - Continue

About Right To Play Jordan

Young people under the age of 29 represent 70 per cent of Jordan’s population. These children and youth experience the threat of poverty and unemployment, and lack of activities that provide respite from the difficult conditions they face in refugee camps and disadvantaged communities.

Right To Play’s intervention among refugee and disadvantaged communities in Jordan focuses on training teachers and staff of partner organizations to implement specially designed sport and play programs that provide psychosocial support, increase knowledge of healthy lifestyle behaviours, and provide youth leadership skills and opportunities for community participation.

Click to learn more about Right To Play, Jordan

15 February 2010

Kickabout: Mifalot in Jordan

11 February 2010 – In the town of Sheikh Hussein, near the Israel-Jordan border, Kickabout dropped in on a program run by Mifalot, the Education and Social Project of Hapoel Tel Aviv FC.

A much different experience than our visits with Right To Play, we spent less time playing and got a chance to observe Mifalot’s program in action. Mifalot encourages children to participate in after-school education programs with football being the hook. If the kids want to play and be a part of a “Hapoel Tel Aviv” team, they are required to fulfill the education requirements of the Mifalot program. They use football as an incentive to learn, and here in Jordan, the focus is on learning English and making positive lifestyle choices. Now, instead of making trouble after school, Mifalot provides kids an outlet that is both physically and mentally constructive.

You could feel the passion and excitement for what Mifalot is doing here. When we walked into an English class, everyone jumped up and yelled, “Welcome to Jordan!” While we did not run a clinic or do much coaching, Lorrie jumped on the pitch and wowed the boys with her skill. Several boys said they had never seen such a good female footballer.

As she often does, Lorrie turned her enthusiasm to
wards the girls on the sideline and got them to join in the fun. It was very cool to see the girls step out and get stuck in.

Mifalot is the largest sport for development project in the Middle East, with over 300 program sites throughout Israel, Palestine, and for the first time, Jordan. Local Mifalot Coordinators, Abu El Majed and Yehonathan Stein, gave us a tour of the area and explained why an Israeli football club wanted to open a project in Jordan.

“Mifalot and Hapoel want to provide quality education and sport activities to all children, no matter where they live. And here in Sheik Hussein and Shuna, most of the families here are farmers and there is not much to do after school gets out in the early afternoon,” said Yehonathan.
Majed agreed, “Without Mifalot here, the kids would be bored and more likely to cause trouble or make poor choices. Now, they get to be part of a team, learn English, and play football. It’s a great program.”
In addition to Mifalot’s work in Jordan, they have hundreds of programs in the Middle East. Visit the Mifalot website to learn more about their incredible work.


09 February 2010

Kickabout: Cappadocia

On the road to Syria we stopped in Cappadocia, an incredible stretch of the Nev┼čehir Province in central Turkey. In between some exploring and discovery, we found a group of kids wanting to kick about with Lorrie.

Enjoy the highlight video.

We ran through Syria and had limited access to our Facebook and Twitter accounts. But we’re back into the swing of things in Jordan. We’re visiting Right To Play and a new project in Jordan run by our friends at Mifalot, the Education and Social Project of Hapoel Tel Aviv FC.

Recap and highlights coming soon!

Only one week until we get to Egypt!

04 February 2010

Sport in Society supports Kickabout

Boston, MA - Sport in Society, a recognized leader in the international sport for development community, has pledged their support for Kickabout: Africa 2010. "Kickabout is an innovative and inspiring initiative and journey to create awareness, energy, and a legacy of sport for development and peace within communities throughout Africa. Sport in Society is delighted to show our support, and to serve as a resource for the Kickabout team,” says Eli Wolff, Sport in Society Director of Strategic Partnerships.

Through innovative programming, rigorous research and extensive outreach that impacts thousands both locally and worldwide, Sport in Society uses the power and appeal of sport to foster diversity, prevent violence, and improve the health of local and global communities. For Kickabout, Sport in Society will help arrange visits with universities and other local partners along our route from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa. Sport in Society will also help to promote Kickabout's experiences with local sport for development projects across Africa.

Kickabout co-founder, Brian Gonzales, is delighted to have Sport in Society on board. "Sport in Society is a tremendous advocate for sport and social change. Their large network of contacts, from prestigious universities to experienced practitioners and scholars, is an invaluable resource to us. We hope that this will help us achieve our primary mission: to raise awareness and support for the programs we visit on Kickabout."

Click here to learn more about Sport in Society.