Saturday, December 7, 2013

Futbol Game

Fun times with the School Teachers

So Anne and I have been organizing a soccer game between the Moreau school staff and the Kirinda health unit staff for several weeks now. The school and the clinic are right next to each other and the staff all interact with each other on a daily basis. One of the goals Anne and I had set at the beginning of our time here was to improve the morale and retention of the clinic staff. Soccer, or futbol as they call it here, is the most popular sport here so what better way to create some camaraderie and get a break from work then to create a game. We could not have imagined how much fun and excitement it would end up creating. A few weeks before the game was to be played the clinic staff made a poster for the wall listing all the player positions, the morale team (aka cheerleaders,) and the first aid response team. Enid, the dispenser, was in charge of the cheers and she and I went around the clinic and taught the morale team the cheers. They consisted of making letters out of your body in the shape of the letters C-L-I-N-I-C and C-O-C-O-N-U-T (I’m still not sure what coconut had to do with a soccer game,) the American cheer Who Rocks the house, and the African cheer “to whom does it belong to.” I made a first aid kit out of a cardboard box and twine that our clinical officer and midwife were in charge of, we were able to receive jerseys from our parish priest to use for both teams, and we received permission to use the secondary school’s pitch. The school staff had been practicing after school for weeks before the game, and lunchtime talk was all about who was going to win. The clinic staff roster was loaded with men, and the school staff was heavy on women since most of their teaching staff is female. This caused much debate and concern over the fairness of the game, because on paper it looked as though the clinic would have an easy win.

After much anticipation game day had finally arrived. We all walked over to the pitch about a mile away and upon entering the field I was surprised to see how many students, community members, and staff members were lining the field. It was looking to be an exciting game. After a 15 minute argument about uneven teams the clinic reluctantly agreed to give one of our best players, Agaba, the security man, to the school to even out the teams. We had on our jerseys, our morale team and students were drumming, the referee and linesman were in place- it was game time!

The Clinic (purple) and School (white) Staff Players
It quickly became apparent that all the bragging and talking the clinic men had done far exceeded their playing ability. Many were not strong players, in fact the female school teachers were giving us a run for our money. We had the tallest player with the longest arms and biggest hands as our goalie yet his coordination was severely lacking. Despite our goalie’s skills we were still shocked when the school scored the first goal, and subsequently the crowd went wild jumping and hugging their players. As halftime arrived the school staff was jubilant, and full of smiles as they hi-fived each other. The clinic staff on the other hand was starting to fall apart, camaraderie was lacking, and conversation was tense. We could only hope that the handfuls of white powdered glucose our first aid team handed to us would rejuvenate our body and spirits for the second half. My opponent on the other team, Annnet, had been replaced with Rose, the school cook, so I knew it would be more of a challenge playing against fresh legs. Since we switched sides I was now closer to the sideline of spectators and as I dribbled the ball and made a quick cut around an opponent there was a huge scream of cheers. I stopped myself from dribbling, looked at the sideline, and almost started laughing. Being close to the sideline of spectators this time allowed me to hear better just how exuberant our co-workers and friends were, and they were surely doing a better job at their task then we were playing. With time ticking down we had the momentum, and thankfully one of the nursing assistants, Ali, was able to put the ball in the back of the net. Cartwheels, cheers, and hugs were aplenty as the clinic staff ran back in celebration to our side of the field. The game ended in a draw, which was for the best as both sides left happy. I have played in many soccer games growing up some of which were large tournaments and championship games, but the love and joyous hugs from coworkers from both clinic, school staff, and our morale team topped all game day celebrations I have had. That night and for the next few days all dinner, lunch and hallway talk became about the game and replaying the highlights and memories we shared together. Now plans are in the works for a rematch next term….clinic, it’s time to start practicing!

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