Soccer as a language


Their dark eyes fell upon us skeptically as they watched us stroll up to their humble school in a large ostentatious tour van. They stood pressed up against the walls of the school, watching us from behind one another-making sure to keep adequate distance, as though we carried a contagious disease. We were encroaching on their space and their uniform glares confirmed mutual unease. However, we soon learned that the feelings of unease were not meant to be confused with feelings of unwelcome.

We were trudging up the hill to the soccer field and basketball courts with new backpacks we bought for the students; continuing on, heavy handed and heavy hearted. Once we got to the top and set down the backpacks, our group was divided into either soccer players or basketball players. We were merged into groups with the children. Though not all of us were geared with proper athletic attire or skill, we all put our game faces on.

Once the games began, the entire mood of the afternoon shifted from cautious and reserved to sweet, clamorous amusement. False premonitions quickly dissipated. Dour stares were exchanged for ample smiles and hearty laughter. It was then that I recognized playing sports as a language; a means for communicating reconciliation.

For the will to meet each other on a level playing field shows acceptance of one another and a negotiation of former misconceptions. Through soccer, we were able to focus on each other as human beings, living in the same moment and sharing a common passion.

It was important to reach this platform of understanding, for misconceptions feed negative stereotypes that seem to entrap those that are underprivileged. A common case alleged to be a cause of poverty, is the lack of motivation to seek out something better. However, the reality for those that are impoverished is that they motivated more than most to break free. In actuality, a low income is an issue for innumerable amounts of families and more often than not, is not a choice.

From my perspective, through the prism of these ambitious, light-hearted young students, living on a low income means having to put other financial priorities ahead of school supplies and soccer balls. Undeterred by financial burdens, these children exuded humbleness, resilience, and hope.


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