Bare feet, a patch of beaten land, surrounded by the market and garbage bags to delimit a football field and a “bola”, rags and plastic bags assembled together to form a ball. That’s how the young from the African compounds play football, when they do not have to scrape out a living begging or are not busy looking for food in garbage dumps or in the bins of the city. There are many kids from any continent who see an opportunity in this sport, a way to get out of poverty and street life.
Cicetekelo – which in local Bemba language means hope, trust – Youth Project was born from the necessity to give an immediate answer to a group of children that a member of the Community of Pope John XXIII met in 1997 in Zambia. It deals with the recovery and reintegration in the family and in society of the so-called Ovcs – Orphans and Vulnerable Children – children living situations of disadvantage and poverty in the town of Ndola and nearby areas. Despite the poverty, the fatigue of a day’s work as a laborer for a handful of coins, there is always the desire to form a team, score and win. The passion for football is cross; it is a dream shared by boys from every country and social backgrounds.
Thanks to the cooperation between Macsy, Foundaciò Fc Barcelona and Pope John XXIII Community, the program “2 football boots for a smile” was born. Protagonists of the initiative are those who participate in the Italian camp FCB Escola, the summer camps organized by Macsy and Barcelona Football in Italy. The boys agreed to donate football boots that they no longer use. The goal was to collect 1,000 pairs of boots, but the results were better than expected. This is a slap to those who see in the sport just a business and extort handsome profits too often forgetting where they come from.
So in the spring of 2015 a container with boots, uniforms, balls was delivered to Cicetekelo, among the cheers of 300 little champions. The enthusiasm was such that the camp leaders immediately organized a tournament divided into three categories – female, under 15 and over 15 – which took place on several fields: the preliminaries were held in the center, while the finals of the three categories were held in the Stadium of the Fair in Ndola. Recreational activities and sports – and football in particular – are an integral part of the intervention methods of Cicetekelo Youth Project, which also offers nutritional, health and psychosocial assistance, spiritual and moral education, academic and professional support.
The main purpose of the educators of the center is to explain how to be children to the ones who had to grow up too soon, and physical activity in this is crucial: it transmits basic values such as team spirit, it teaches to be loyal, to sustain each other, to rejoice in the successes of others, but at the same time it makes kids grow up and become stronger.
Freely adapted from “Sempre”
Translation provided by Maria Rosaria Mastopaolo