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Back in Africa, Part 11 – “Having a Field Day”

Today was the day our two classes would meet for the first time to play a game of soccer. Nancy and her Kibera team arrived at my site around 11:30, ready to play. Unbeknownst to me (and Nancy), members of the Kibera class were part of a soccer team and when we first saw them, we all thought, OMG – they look like really good soccer players. My team, in compaison, seemed more pedestrian. It was like in the Karate Kid where he goes up against the juggernaut of the opposing team, which I guess, made me the Pat Morita of Kimathi team. The only problem is that I know very little about soccer and have not played it in over 15 years for good reason.

As the teams walked onto the field, Nancy and I watched from the sidelines. The women of the two groups formed cheering sections on opposite ends of the field. Once the game began, our cheering section started to trash talk the other team (OK, I may have encouraged them – a little). As you can imagine, this incited the other cheering section so now we had two sections trash talking each other in Swahili (it was all in good fun, though). For example, one of my students starting yelling “Domo, Domo” which means loud mouth in Swahili. Kenyans love their soccer, though, as any hint of momentum for one team elicited shrieking screams from the sidelines. Since we played on the field next to our site, our game drew the surrounding neighborhood out to watch. From the looks on their faces, I think they thought we were crazy with all the shouting, screaming, and trash talking. At one point in the game, someone from the other team said to me that my team was so bad that we should take up tennis. I shot back by saying that “I could beat them all in tennis” but then he countered with “but this is not tennis”. In the end, my team lost 3-2 but I thought we did a great job against a much more experienced team.

However, the highlight of the day was at the end of the day when my team captain brought everyone together in a circle to stress that while we came to play soccer, they had an opportunity to support each other’s entrepreneurial dreams by working together. For example, he said that his camping equipment rental business could work with the tour company that another student is wanting to start. With that said, he asked each person to state their name and business idea to help everyone identify the potential synergistic opportunities. I was really proud of both teams for transforming a highly competitive soccer game into one of shared opportunities.

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