The tournament consists of four groups, each group has 2 to 5 teams that play each other, the top teams advance to quarter and then semi finals. Our group is the largest, so we were to have three different days on which we would play each of the other four teams (one day we play twice). The whole thing is to be done between today and Easter, only 3 weeks. There should have been four games today, starting early this morning. By ten nothing was happening. By noon it became clear that only one other school was coming, and they were not a school we were slated to play against today. It seems that though the plan was agreed upon at a meeting of head teachers, one of the schools had second thoughts about the fairness of some of the policies, and convinced others to boycott. Passive-aggressive, the preferred conflict style. Meanwhile our team and Kakuka's milled about in their uniforms, the sun beat down with more and more heat, the community pressed up to the fence to see what was happening, the hired police had nothing to do, the referees and district games personnel sat at their tables waiting, and nothing happened. Finally mid-afternoon they decided that the no-show teams should forfeit, the two teams on site (Kakuka and CSB) got automatic wins. We proposed a "friendly" match (outcome would not count in the tournament) just to give our team and Kakuka's experience, but Kakuka preferred to go home rested and injury-free.
And so, what ensued was probably the best football match ever played on the CSB pitch. Christ School starters vs. the second-string team helped by Nathan and Alex, two coaches (Bwampu and Ajeku also coach, but sat this one out). The progress these boys make year to year is so noticeable. Kevin got them started down a path of discipline and skill, but it seems the improvement now is exponential. The game was a 1 to 1 draw, because there really is little difference between our starters and our subs. Nathan scored the goal for the second team on a cross from Alex . . which in my opinion was like Ashley's goal in the staff/student girls' game Monday, a reminder to the kids that these coaches know what they are doing. There was good passing, ball control, strong shots, team work. Really fun to see.
Hopefully the girls will have a few games eventually. And hopefully the boys will play someone besides each other, multiple times, in the next few weeks.
Today was a reminder of the power of sports to bring the Kingdom forward. Hard work, accountability to team mates, following rules, taking risks, a taste of success, the approval of adults, the importance of physical and mental and spiritual strength all combined. Then the grace to be blessed by good uniforms, helpful teachers, a level pitch, things that are rarely found here. Coaches have the opportunity to instruct, to challenge, to encourage, to lead. This is an area of missions to Africa that should grow. So few African kids have the opportunity to play sports this way, supervised and taught. And yet so much of who we become in God's image can happen on a football pitch!
Lastly, since we are pondering missionary football coaches . . . a tribute goes out to Josh Trott, one of our first. Who is now engaged to be married to a young woman named Lydia. No doubt they will be bringing just such opportunities to needy kids in inner-city Philadelphia. Congratulations.