Day 6 began with a 7:30 breakfast and a meeting from 7:45 to 8:15. During the meeting we heard Max and Templeton’s presentation on chapters 4 and 5, titled Lead From the Back and Look the Part. As with all previous presentation it was well-considered and an effective presentation of the material. Not sure where it falls in the grand rankings of presentations but I’ll admit that I am enjoying the fact that each group has put in the necessary preparation time and put together a good show.
After our discussion we boarded the bus at 8:20 and made the 40 minute drive into Khayelitsha for our first visit to the Chris Campbell Memorial Field. As G noted, “you can’t play in the backyard before you meet the head of the house”. With that in mind, we had the pleasure of meeting Principal Maji, the head of the Ikhusi School that owns the ground upon which the turf field sits. He was almost as excited to see us as we were to be there, and he soon sent us off to tour the township surrounding the field. Nkazi, a senior leader at the field, was kind enough to take us on an hour-long walking tour through the sections nearby. Though I confess I expected that the poverty in the surrounding areas would be eye-opening, I nonetheless found the condition of houses, people, and stray dogs to be entirely new. Many of the issues like alcoholism, drugs, and poor sanitation were all readily evident within our short jaunt.
When we finally got onto the field, it was an explosion of energy. For the seniors, it was the culmination of 3+ years of waiting. I found myself repeating the phrase “in the middle of it all”. Because it really is shocking, seeing this startling green emerald in the midst of dust and aluminum shacks. Many of us were excited to simply run around and check out the field even in the absence of a soccer ball. Fortunately the senior leaders that work at the field running programs for the local kids soon showed us a few “energizers” designed to wake up our bodies and minds. They then took us through a combined soccer and life skills workshop, with a particular focus on passing and the building of strengths in others and ourselves. Though English is a second or possibly third language for all of the senior leaders I found that our man, nicknamed China, put together 45 minutes that were engaging both physically and mentally for us boys of 18 to 21. I can only imagine the effect that people like China and Nkazi can have on the lives of the people in Khayelitsha that are younger than ourselves.
After our workshop, we went into the clubhouse for a presentation on Amandla EduFootball, the organization that oversees the programs run at the field. It was interesting to really learn how the different groups active at the field come together to make it work. The Ikhusi School provides the location and a majority of the kids at the field while the CTC 10 Foundation takes care of the grounds and provides funds for student interns and other expenses at the field. Amandla is an international organization that was started in Khayelitsha to develop a curriculum and use for the field that CTC 10 put there. Our presenter, Wewe, showed us the 10 “safe havens” that Amandla has established across Africa and the Middle East. While the CTC 10 is concerned with the continued upkeep and improvement of the field in Khayelitsha, seeing the way that the Chris Campbell Memorial Field serves as an example for the global improvement of underprivileged children was powerful. Out of this little green patch amongst the shacks, boundless energy and incredible people like Amandla organizers, senior leaders, and CTC 10 workers have changed and will continue to change the world.
After the presentation we ate lunch on the field and were given time to eat, chat, and play some keepaway with the senior leaders. Soon thereafter they took us through another fixture program at the field, the fair play league. Games are usually 6v6, with points earned not only by scoring goals but also by shaking hands with opponents, performing a team cheer, and applauding goals scored by the opposition. We continued to play short sided games for about an hour before afterschool programs began and we had to depart for our first fixture in South Africa.
While everyone was reluctant to leave the field our disappointment was tempered by the fact that we knew we were heading to the training facility of Ajax Cape Town, a club in the South African Premier League and branch club of Ajax Amsterdam (one of the most successful European clubs of the 20th century). The facility was amazing, from the high-quality turf field we played on to the balcony stands and benches. We had heard that we would be playing their reserve squad, but we ultimately ended up playing the under-17s, meaning that these mostly 17 year-olds were anywhere between two and four years younger than us. Ultimately I think we were all glad for the age advantage.
Knowing that they were going to want to possess the ball, we pressed hard and for the first 20 minutes we dominated play. Backs were pushing up and crushing players checking in, mids were winning loose passes, and forwards were getting behind backs and gaining corners and shots. This proved fruitful around 15 minutes in when Vince found himself under a poorly cleared corner and coolly dispatched the ball into the bottom left-hand corner to give us a 1-0 lead. We would remain in the ascendency for another 10 minutes before our press slowed down and Ajax began to play their game.
As we found out for the remainder of the first half and the ensuing period, these kids could play. There is a reason they are playing in the system of one of South Africa’s best clubs, and the training invested in them has certainly paid off. They started to assert their possession, penning us in and creating opportunities through combination play. They found the back of the net through a well-worked goal late in the first half and managed to knock Trevor out of the game when a drive of the post left him clutching cramped calves. In case you are wondering how a guy that basically stands around in the box cramped up, I am sorry to say I have no answer. Dude, just like eat a banana. Nonetheless we defended well for the remainder of the game, featuring a stellar save by Reingold to push a dipping shot from range onto the crossbar and out. While we unfortunately were not able to convert the chances that we did continue to create, we were not unhappy with a 1-1 result. Sure, they were significantly younger than us. But when a man can play the game, give him credit. And these kids certainly could.
After we returned to the lodge and showered up, we were free to hit the town and eat where we wanted. Johno was kind enough to show us the main spots where we could get good food, and to my knowledge everyone returned home happy around 10. Clearly our time in Cape Town is not only far more awesome but also much more busy. Thus, I must again apologize for the lateness of my post, I hope it does not detract from your enjoyment. PH&L to all.