Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The First Game

Five small boys sat behind me giving a play-by-play of the game in their own words. Simple but understandable. They sat on the edge of their seats with their eyes glued to every pass, kick, save, and slide. They jumped up and down when the ball got close to the net and cursed the ref when he made a call against their team. Their tiny bodies started imitating the boys on the pitch.

Then there was a Muslim man sitting on the bench in front of me. He was giving a more sophisticated and seemingly more educated play-by-play of the game to his friend. After every shot, corner kick, and defensive move he gave his comment on how he would have done it better. His friend beside him just kept staring at the game listening patiently to him yabber about the glory of his younger soccer-playing days.

A group of rowdy young boys showed up. The minute they showed up, things got louder and more abusive as they yelled at the coaches, the players, the ref, and even the spectators for no particular reason but to be annoying and seemingly cool. But every one resented them and eventually they calmed down after not getting the attention that had hoped for.

Then there was the mama who brought little packages of peanuts to sell to the people in the stands. She sat down beside me with an empty bucket. I was happy to see her business went well and she can go home with no peanuts left over and some money in her pockets.

And of course, there was me. The only white person in the whole place. The only girl watching the game. I just sat there quietly, not wanting to really be seen or to attract any attention to myself, but just wanting to watch the Rehma boys shine on the pitch for their very first match as a team.

The boys arrived at the pitch before any one else to get focused and warm up properly. They had taken the initiative to raise money to rent proper jerseys for their first game. Just before the ref blew the whistle for the game to start, it started to pour with rain. It had been the first time it rained in weeks and of course it had to come just as we started our first game. The first 20 minutes had a lot of slipping and sliding, bad passes and short kicks. And a lot of mud. The boys were covered in it from head to toe. But soon the sun came out again and the field slowly dried up. That’s when the real game began. 

More and more people started to trickle into the small, humble stadium until there were over 300 people watching the game. And guess what? They were all there to watch our boys! My cheeks couldn’t stop hurting from smiling so much as I looked around at all the people who had come to watch the boys play. It was a big afternoon as two heavyweight soccer teams were playing: Manchester United and Arsenal. Both very crucial games in the season. Yet, for some reason, people chose to come watch the Rehma boys. It just goes to show what an impact they have on their community.

The game was exciting. There was lot of close calls and intense moments. The boys played their hearts out but in the end, neither team scored. As the boys walked off the pitch, they were congratulated by the multitudes on a game well played. I learned later on that they were playing the top team in the 3rd best league in the nation. Their opponents criss-cross the country beating great teams. And our boys tied with them??!! I asked why we couldn’t play in their league and I was told that it was merely support that makes the difference. If you have the money for travel, team fees, equipment, etc. then you are able to join the league.

I sat on the side as they debriefed with their coaches in awe of what I had just seen. These boys would not have had the chance to play if we had not gotten the support to help them. They would not have drawn such an incredible crowd and created such a sense of community if they weren’t the incredible boys that they were. They will be surely making a big impact in their communities with continued love and support. We have already heard some great things about what they are doing and how they are behaving in the community.

As we walked home watching the sunset, I was talking with one of the boys about his struggles in life. They are big struggles compared to what we struggle with. Things we may never understand because we are so fortunate. My heart hurt for him. I was just glad that, for a few hours, he was able to forget about the challenges in his life, and just play.

 We still need a few things for the boys. We have really seen the need for a full first aid kit. Also, they don’t have their own official jerseys. They are going to family and friends just to raise a little money to rent them so it would be nice for them have their own set. We have been able to equip some of the boys with a few necessities thanks to some generous donors.  If you got to spend one day with these boys, you would see the amazing amount of needs they have in their lives. One thing is education. Many of them have only gone up to gr.8 because they can’t afford the school fees past that. There is not much you can do if you only have a certificate up to gr. 8. It is our prayer that one day we can also sponsor some of them to continue their education. Please pray about it and contact me if you would like to help them out in any way.

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