As the midday sun beats down strongly onto the centre, the 25+ children (and young adults) squeeze into the back of the truck, with volunteers heading quickly on foot towards the football pitch. By this time it is usually near to 1pm, making it a definite challenge to both coach and play football in the Zimbabwean blistering heat. This doesn’t seem deter the eager children however, and only seems to have an effect on us Brits - who certainly aren’t used to such constant heat or sunshine. I think all of the international volunteers can safely say that this is the longest time we haven’t seen rain; another factor affecting the difficulty of playing football, causing enormous dust clouds created as hordes of children sprint around the pitch.
After a short warm-up to get everyone going, coach Iain begins the session with various football drills, skills and tactics games, and team building exercises. The distinct lack of resources was certainly a challenge at the beginning, with ‘simple’ items such as cones and bibs being an alien concept. Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before the vast amounts of rubbish at the football pitch soon became a blessing, allowing us to create various skills courses, and even fully functioning goal posts.
After a good half an hour of competitive skills practice, the children are then begrudgingly split into random teams. Whether these teams actually stay put remains usually a mystery, due largely to the strong willed minds of the children who wish to be with their friends, and lack of bibs indicating the separate teams.
Despite the scorching rays of the sun beating down onto the open football pitch, as soon as the whistle blasts (as soon as Iain shouts to signal the beginning of the game), the children seem to release a second burst of energy, playing relentlessly on – much to the volunteers’ dismay, who are often exhausted at this point!
There never seems to be a specific end of play, however the agitated behaviour and increasingly slow movements of the children signifies the completion of the match. As the afternoon comes to an end, everyone gathers in the welcome shade underneath the large oak tree, whilst coach Iain ends the session by going over the skills learned that day, and how the team have progressed since the last session.
The volunteers, appropriately worn out and often dehydrated, then make the short walk back to the office to end the day with the daily de-brief meeting with the rest of the team, whilst the hungry children head back to the centre for the third ‘meal’ of the day, of fresh bread and juice.
Another successful day with the kids! Bring on the next one.
Written by ICS Volunteers