A Travellerspoint blog

Day 73 – Orphange Football

4th December 2011

semi-overcast 30 °C

We’d arrived in Livingstone in the late afternoon on the previous day. Police Engagement #6 had been easy, at a road block our smartly dressed attending officer had asked if we had organised all the papers we needed to at the border. He didn’t seem interested in our reply and, before we could answer he was asking why our doors were missing. (Redvers is a three door as opposed to the conventional five door defender.) He burst out laughing at his own joke, we laughed with nervous appreciation and nerves; mostly the latter.

The day would have been just another office day, sorting our itinerary out. But there was an advert in the hostel for a game of football at the local orphanage. I immediately leapt at the chance of slotting a few past another unsuspecting child goal keeper and was already reminiscing about Lesotho as I signed up. Laura would be welcomed by the girls and so our afternoon visit was arranged.

We were the only ones who signed up for that particular Sunday. On arriving at the orphanages’ entrance the huge steel doors opened onto a dusty courtyard. Our taxi pulled up and we hopped out and were escorted by a young boy to the office. We sat for half an hour talking discussing, mostly being educated about, Zambia. They’ve recently appointed a new President, Michael Chilufya Sata, the refreshing thing was that when he won the elections, the incumbent president Rupiah Banda, stepped down and handed over the power to Mr Sata.

After discussing the orphanage we found that there are thirty four kids here who have lost their parents either permanently or temporarily to HIV or to border police respectively as Congolese mothers get caught in Zambia illegally. They try to flee the conflict of the Congo by passing through Zambia but get caught attempting to cross the border into Botswana at Kazungula. This misdemeanour gets them six months in prison and the protracted bureaucratic impossibility of Zambia and the Congo liaising as to what happens next.

We toured the grounds. A large vegetable patch allows the children to grow their own maize, tomatoes, kale and various other vegetables. They have a sun oven to bake bread (a set of six foot mirrors that concentrates the sun onto a series of solar panels tubes that get super warm.) Their bedrooms were sparsely furnished concrete walled dwellings. Clean and comfortable, each child had a bunk bed with mattress and their own small wardrobe filled with clothes. The kids were taken to school each day and the care workers put in long hours meaning they became semi-parent like in a world with few elders. Family members visited on occasion and were available (in both senses of the phrase.) Given the circumstances it seemed an acceptable outcome and one far preferable to the street and the downward spiral that invariably comes with it.

My recollection of playing the Lesotho kids was not be recreated. I was a complete outsider and try as I might I found it extremely difficult to break into the protective clique these kids lived in. The standard Liverpool chat came out and I taunted the kid in the Real Madrid shirt, that did get a few smiles, I reminded Barcelona that we’d beaten them in 2001 at Anfield when Gary MacAllistar put away a penalty and Jamie Carragher turned Rivaldo upside down, but given that the kid was about eight and had probably had very little access to a TV for most of his life that one may have been lost on him.
As the time came to pick teams I accepted the inevitable and I stood meekly, my hands behind my back, a grown up amongst boys, my eyes begging silently not be picked last. God gave me a little smile and I only got picked second last. The boy they were about to pick-on came last and that only made me feel worse. Last Pick got put in goal, his sub-four foot frame was anything but imposing and his position was less than ideal as he was afraid when the ball was kicked at him. Things only worsened for him when a penalty was given after one of his players hand balled in the imaginary area. When the ball came flying from the spot, Last Pick covered his face. His team mates threw abuse, hands flashed the air, Last Pick swallowed his tears, forcing his eyes to stay open as long as he could, until it was too much. His hands shot up to his face to hide the tears, he turned and ran across the field and behind the storage container. His team mates turned back to the game now only quietly berating poor Last Pick. I’d forgotten how hard it is being a kid. I remembered days just like it from my childhood. Surely there is nothing worse.

Back in the game, despite being in enviable positions clear on goal I couldn’t convince a pass to come my way. The white guy was too insignificant to pass to and was even too insignificant to mark. I took matters into my owns hands a few times and garnered a bit of possession in mid-field once putting in a superb forward ball to leave Barcelona through on goal. After that, things picked up a little but it wasn’t exactly full throttle bonding. After ninety minutes they still had the energy of kids where as I was tiring a little bit. I’d been playing bare foot and the gravel was stinging my bruised and tender feet. (They’re delicate at the best of times is what I seem to be learning on this trip.) I retired like some sort of third rate UN-ambassador, having never really played a part. I hobbled over to meet Somers who had been talking to one girl and her sister who had lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. She’d spoken about their lives and families and the Christmas they were planning on spending with their aunt but even that, she said, had been hard work.

It had been an afternoon of trying, probably of trying to do too much in too short a time. But regardless of our actual achievements we thought it had been worthwhile. From a selfish point of view at least we’d seen inside Zambia.

We had been told to find a taxi home, but it was only four kilometres and we’d clocked the way on our journey there. We set off walking; we stopped for a bite to eat and got charged double for a bread snack on the side of the road, 12p instead of 6p. The stares came and the shouts or whispers of ‘Mazungu’ (literally ‘white guy’ but imagine every way you could say ‘black guy’ and the range of the statement becomes apparent.) At one point we felt a lot more comfortable, almost a tinge of ‘local’ as Prosper, the guard from the backpackers, shouted over at us to say hello on his way home from work. We’d paid him a few dollars earlier on for turning a ball of mud into Redvers again. We stopped for dinner in a cafe. Pasties and cokes all round.

Posted by ibeamish 00:05 Archived in Zambia

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