During every training session there are always little kids not involved who are playing football by themselves watching the training at on one side of the pitch. Unfortunately, nobody takes care of them. Nowadays, in Mwanza there are not many teams for children who are younger than 16 years of age. The lack of infrastructure including pitches and club structures are currently missing to make it possible for them to train regularly at an earlier age.
However, these kids are still such an inspiration to all of us. Their only involvement is usually just bringing a ball back to the pitch when players miss during shooting drills. For them it is a joy to hold a ball for only a few seconds or to kick it a few times while bringing it back to the pitch. Our goal is to give them the chance to train regularly with proper equipment and infrastructure in a team in the near future. Just imagine how happy that would make them.
Every Saturday, Mama asked us for a ball. We always wondered, “why did she want the ball?” She takes care of our volunteer house. We don’t speak the same language, but we understand each other. Mama not only takes care of us, but she is also engaged in supporting children from the neighborhood through a life skills center.
One day, she called us outside to say “hi” to her friends. They were very happy to meet us. That day, we discovered the reason Mama always needed a ball on Saturdays. We followed the group of women down the street, not knowing where we were going or what we were doing. We arrived at a dirt “court”. Mama said to us, “We are going to play netball.” The group was comprised of twenty women, between the ages of 30 and 60. It didn’t matter who won or lost. They play the game solely to have fun together every week.
We know the power that sports have, but it is impossible to truly understand it until you see and experience it in different backgrounds. Here in Africa, sports are more than just a hobby. They hold a special meaning.
Frank is the leader of the Volleyball Association and a true inspiration to all of us. After finishing his work as a Doctor at the hospital, he usually goes to the volleyball grounds to try and help the 7 local teams grow and improve. Lately he was abroad in Zimbabwe for some work and got a great job offer. He refused it because as he says, “My volleyball family in Mwanza needs me”. Frank has a vision of eventually having many more teams and grounds in Mwanza so that the volleyball family can grow. We share this vision with him and will keep working as hard as Frank so that we can fulfill it.