Soccer Without Borders: Playing for a Change

By Ana Tantum
EE Staff Writer

Soccer Without Borders is a non-profit organization that uses soccer as a vehicle for positive change in third world countries. I had the opportunity to work with SWB and volunteer at their camp in Granada, Nicaragua last summer. I was introduced to an inspiring group of girls who have displayed great bravery in order to play the game they love. In a country where girls playing sports is frowned upon, these girls receive much backlash from their peers, neighbors, and even family for wanting to play a sport that their society believes in only for boys. Also, majority of these girls come from impoverished families and would not have the resources to play if it weren’t for Soccer Without Borders. The following article explains the five day World Cup themed camp that I helped host in Nicaragua during a week the girls had break from school.

Day 1: On the first day the girls were first prepped with how the camp would work and broken into three different teams (England, China, and the United States). The girls were a variety of different ages, anywhere from 6-18, around 50 total participants. They came ready and excited for a week of fun and competition. The week would be a running contest between all three teams, each day there would be contests where the girls could earn points for their respective team. The camp would culminate in a huge relay race through the town of Granada to determine the “World Cup Winner.” The first day was all about getting to know our teams. We played the name game, came up with a team cheer, and made banners and posters to support our teams.

Day 2: The second day of camp is when the soccer began. We hit the fields, which were in reality patches of dirt, but the girls didn’t care. They were just happy to be able to play. We started off with games and drills focusing on the important soccer skill of dribbling. The participants were eager to learn something new and fearless of making mistakes. I was grateful for the abilities I have learned as a result of the opportunities I have had at home to help these girls. Not only did they learn new soccer skills, but we all had so much fun with the friendly competitions between teams.

Day 3: On the third day, Mother Nature threw us a curve ball. It poured all day so we had to make a change of plans and move activities indoors. We did a did a yoga class, played a game of jeopardy, and painted a mural of the world map on the wall of the Soccer Without Border headquarters. These activities stressed the importance of fitness and education, which are unfortunately not always done. I was inspired by the girls’ spirit and attitude on this day. They worked hard, did everything with huge smiles, and were grateful for the little things that I have so often taken for granted.

Day 4: It was the fourth day and we were back to kicking it on the soccer fields. Today we focused on scrimmaging in mini soccer games and playing together as a team. We set up a round robin type tournament where the girls could put the skills they’d learned in previous sessions on display in real game situations. The girls were really proud of themselves after the long day of soccer and we all celebrated by treating them to ice cream after!

Day 5: The final day of camp meant time for the big “World Cup” relay race through town. The other coaches and I woke up at the break of dawn to set up for the big event. We painted arrows throughout the streets to direct the girls through the race and organized stations where they would have to complete different activities before moving on. The girls arrived ready to compete and excited for the race. The teams sprinted vigorously through town, working together to complete the different tasks and pushing each other to do it as fast as possible. By the end of the race, the winner didn’t even matter because we all had so much fun participating in the relay race. The hardest part of the final day of camp was saying goodbye. I will never forget those girls and how truly inspiring they were.

Overall, the camp was a huge success it reminded me the importance of equality. Everyone deserves the same opportunities whether they are a girl or a boy. “Todos Pueden Jugar,” which means everyone can play in Spanish is the message painted on the fence surrounding the fields where Soccer without Borders plays. This is a message I will always keep with me. No matter who you are, if you want to play, you should be able to. The week I spent in Nicaragua gave me hope that one day everyone will be able to do what they love and the world will let go of the stereotypes or “borders” that prevent people from doing so.

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