One of the main things I worried about when going away for three months was the expected lack of sports and fitness I’d be involved in. In my head, I planned to go on morning runs before work but this was simply too unrealistic for someone who struggles to get out of bed thirty minutes before they’re meant to leave. This meant the first couple of weeks I was left doing little. We had played a UK vs national volunteers match back in Lilongwe, which resulted in a gripping late win for the national volunteers, in a 7-6 thriller, but since leaving for Rumphi I was starting to grow restless.
Luckily a couple of the national volunteers we were working with also played football and I’d asked them to get me involved whenever they went down for a kick about. However, after work on the third sunny Tuesday afternoon of the placement, the national volunteer team leader dropped me off with a local team training across the road from the office. Now, I must add here that back in London I was only used to Sunday League football, rainy mornings and slide tackles in the mud. A dirt pitch, without lines, in the sweltering heat couldn’t be anymore far removed from the conditions I’d played in before. Yet, I was determined to throw myself into this first training session, I desperately wanted to play with a team out here and I thought this could be my only chance.
What I didn’t realise I was getting myself into at the time was four training sessions a week and potentially two matches on the weekend. Though I was clearly lacking the skill many of the players had, my dogged desire to play the game and join in with the banter afterwards meant they let me continue to train and play. In fact, thinking back to some of the earlier training sessions, anybody with a will to play would have been happily accepted onto the team.
Over the next few weeks, I continued to join in the pre-season training (their season starts in April through to December), I started in five matches and scored my first goal in Africa. I’ve made many friends through the team and would encourage anyone who wants to play to find a team, there are loads out here. Ask politely if you can join, show how useful a bit of route one football can be, (actually don’t, that’s probably the worst thing you can do, they prefer a passing game) and I’d be shocked if any team didn’t let you join in. The only downside is the plastic boots you can buy from the market in Rumphi rip your feet up, but £1.50 for a pair of boots is ideal. Next weekend we’ve got a friendly fixture against a Malawian premier league team coming from the local city of Mzuzu. Wish me luck because I doubt it’s going to be a fun result!
Written by ICS volunteer Charlie Skirrow