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Kicking a Soccer Ball Around the World

NAMIBIA | Wednesday, 28 March 2012 | Views [1357]

Jack playing soccer

Jack playing soccer

There is one universal language – and that’s soccer! In the Northern hemisphere this may be known as football, but to me that’s the word for Rugby League (Tigers to be exact). In almost every country that I have been to, soccer has been an ideal ice breaker. Not just talking about soccer, or watching a soccer match – but playing soccer! It’s an invitation to meet people and kick a ball around and hopefully spark a smile or some laughter.

A couple of years ago I took my sons on a road trip around Africa, and we took along with us some deflated soccer balls and a pump. We could have taken clothes, money, book etc – but we didn’t want it to be just a “giving” thing – we wanted to get to know people and be invited in to spend time with them. The deflated balls were cheap, easy to pack and they didn’t weigh much or take up too much room in our luggage.

We started our trip with a drive across the Kalahari Desert. Our car and family attracted much attention, a 4WD jam packed with luggage, camping equipment and roof top tents and also two boys with cabin fever itching to jump out and stretch their legs.  As we reached Namibia, our practice of pumping up balls became second nature. We approached a beautiful little spot near Spitzkoppe with a roadside stand of a family selling crystals and other souvenirs. After purchasing a handful of colourful crystals for a bag of mandarins, we started to pump up a soccer ball. A small boy who had been hiding behind his mother suddenly jumped forward, eager to kick the ball around with my sons. A few minutes later and the crowd had grown to the entire village – first watching the boys playing and then joining in or slowly making their way over to smile, laugh and talk with us. When playtime was finished, we left the ball for the community to continue their game. My teenage son told us how proud he felt that afternoon of being able to share such a positive experience with a stranger.

We did this across many villages in Namibia, Zambia and Botswana. Locals laughed at my attempts to kick goals. Teenage boys got serious while the young women tentatively ran around the field after the ball. Mothers watched and stood by me watching the game as we shared mandarins, apples and smiles.

When planning trips now, we always make room in the budget (and luggage) for a bunch of soccer balls.

Soccer Ball and Pump - $100

Sharing the experience - Priceless

Tags: namibia, soccer, spitzkoppe

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