Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘football’

Faith In Football

41KtvjU6HDL._SY346_Great Expectations: Chile’s 99-Year quest for the South American Soccer Championship by Thomas Jerome Baker. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Be for-warned that I love futbol (soccer), so am pre-disposed to like almost anything about the subject. Having stated that fact, it is still a nice surprise to read something about the sport that I did not know. I knew very little about the history of Chilean futbol, until now. Great Expectations provides a brief glimpse into the impacts soccer has had on the country, and people, since the ANFF (Football Federation of Chile) was founded in 1895. It is a heart-breaking history.

In 1920, Chile loses out on winning the South American Championship by falling to Uruguay by one goal. In 1945 they lose by one goal to Brazil, in the same tournament. Nineteen-fifty-two comes around, with the Pan American Games, and they lose to Brazil by three goals. Three years later, it is Argentina who knocks them off the winners podium by defeating them 1-0. In 1956 Chile comes in second in the South American Championship. It takes Chile 40 years before they ever beat Brazil.

Mr. Baker adeptly points out some of the psychological, and organizational reasons, that have kept the people and players going through so many defeats, including descriptions of the terms “jinx, “hex”, “charm”, and “curse”. He says, “Chile has a 100-year history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” This lasts until the glorious year of the 2015 South American Championships, when Chile beats Argentina in the final and wins it all for the first time ever! Alexis Sanchez kicks a penalty kick past the goal keeper and “Seventeen million Chileans celebrate across the globe”.

Great Expectations gives us one of the best descriptions of what futbol (soccer) means to many around the world, not just Chileans, that I’ve ever read. “In this new religion, a football stadium is a place where individual and national identity is built and rebuilt, imagined and re-imagined.” Chile has seen themselves for many years through the eyes of their national team. In the past, that message was always that they just weren’t “quite good enough”. They stuck by them however, generation after generation. As Pope Francis II said, “Amongst all unimportant subjects, football is by far the most important.”

Advertisements

Meet Alex Kaberuka

From Amakuru!

Meet Alex, the newest member of the ROP (Rwandan Orphan’s Project) team.

Alex Kaberuka’s story mirrors the backgrounds of so many of the boys living at the ROP. Alex was just five years old on April 7th, 1994, the day the Rwandan Genocide began. His father, an employee at the International Red Cross, gave Alex to his friend and coworker, who was from Kenya, and made him promise that he would take his son with him to Kenya and that he would put Alex through school so he could have a future. He then rushed back to his office at the Red Cross to see how he could help other victims. By the end of the day the killers found him and Alex no longer had a father.

Fast forward 12 years and Alex was back in Rwanda, having finished school in Nairobi as his father’s friend had promised. Alex became a professional soccer player in Rwanda (not a very lucrative job) in 2007. In 2010 he met Sean, one of the ROP’s coordinators and before long the two became good friends. In 2010 Sean decided to organize the ROP’s first official sports team, the ROP Eagles football team, but he wanted someone to lead it who would not only be a coach of soccer, but a mentor and a role model for the boys. Alex stepped forward and volunteered for the role.

Alex took a haphazard group of young boys and teenagers and transformed them into two disciplined teams who had learned the importance of leadership, teamwork and hard work and the rewards they offer. The boys took to Alex from the first practice and nearly every day boys were asking, “Where’s Coach?”

When the ROP Playroom was opened Alex was our first choice to be in charge of it. Alex’s patience with the younger boys and his ability to get them to respect rules and even to come to him with their problems were assets we simply couldn’t pass up on. Then, in December, long time caretaker Osea retired from the ROP, leaving us with a gaping hole in our caretaking staff. With barely a second thought Alex was offered the position. All the staff was thrilled with the choice, and when we announced it to the children they erupted in applause.
Since then Alex has continued to deepen his relationships with both staff and children. The ROP Eagles have become a team that are respected in the local sports community and the children continue to look to Alex for advice and solutions for their problems, as if he is their older brother. When asked what his favorite thing is about working at the ROP he says, “I really enjoy working with these people and having an opportunity to improve the lives of these boys”.

ROP Eagles of Rwanda

From ROP Stories

ROP has a Day Out for a Football Match
Posted on September 1, 2011 by Sean

On Sunday the ROP Eagles played a match against children from OVC Rwanda (another orphanage across town). The event was meant to be an all day tournament featuring the ROP Eagles, OVC Rwanda, another local center and a team composed of mixed players, including myself, but at the last minute one of the teams cancelled so we decided just to have a friendly match against OVC. The event was organized by Veronica, an American working in Rwanda who wants to organize fund raising events that multiple centers like ours can participate in.

The day of the match Coach Alex prepped the players at the ROP Center while Jean de Dieu, the Center supervisor, loaded up all the non-players on a bus to bring out to the football field near the airport. Jenny, myself and some of our friends were already on the pitch when the bus arrived, and soon the bus door burst open and dozens of our small boys started flooding out. All them were very excited to not only have a day out of the Center but to have the opportunity to support their older brothers from the sidelines. (excited fans below)

Shortly after the Eagles bus arrived OVC Rwanda pulled up in their own bus. The two teams changed into their uniforms and began their warm-up routines as the other children mingled with each other and with the various guests who were there to watch including Jenny, myself, my cousin Chris and his wife Sherri, Jonathan – our new social worker volunteer – and Veronica, the organizer. Also in attendance were Mary and Patrick, two Americans who had just came to Rwanda from Uganda and wanted to see the boys play football. Since Patrick was a neutral party we talked him into being the referee for the match. But first we had to improvise by making yellow and red cards for him to use. We just colored two pieces of paper with markers. (The ROP Eagles below)

At 2:30 sharp Patrick blew the whistle and the competition had begun. OVC Rwanda struck first in the 5th minute with a shot that was just out of the short Eagle keeper’s reach. The Eagles looked a little overwhelmed playing on this new, large field and it showed in their lack of good passing and confusion on defense. They pulled together and in the 20th minute scored an equalizer from a nifty counter attack, bringing loud cheers and shouting from the ROP supporters on the sideline. Their spirits were soon dampened, however, when OVC scored two more goals in the last ten minutes of the first half. The referee blew his whistle and the half ended with OVC Rwanda ahead of ROP Eagles 3-1.

Read the rest of the story, see more photos and find out the exciting conclusion of the game at ROP Stories. ROP Stories is the blog for the Rwandan Orphan’s Project.

Barcelona Best In The World!

When it comes to futbol (soccer), there is only one team that comes to mind as the best in the world (at this time) and that is Barcelona FC. That’s only if you have a need to compare and all futbol fans must of course do so. Some are already claiming that is one of the best of all time and they may be right.

Here are 10 (of countless) reasons that Barcelona FC is presently the best team in the world.

1) The Players (every position)
2) The Coach
3) The Fans
4) The Back-Up Players
5) The Timing
6) The Style of Play
7) The Teams Love of the Game
8) The Culture & History of the Club
9) The Finances
10) The Players (every position)

Japan Win World Cup!

Who would have thought? Of all the teams in this year’s Women World Cup, Japan is not the country I would have picked to win it all, let alone knock off powerhouse Germany and No. 1 ranked U.S. They sure did it though and they did it with style, cohesion and determination. A new found defense and superb goalkeeping were key.

Before the World Cup begin, I would have picked Brazil or Germany to win it all. The United States didn’t look as solid as they have in the past and barely made into the tournament in the first place. The fact that they got to the final was somewhat of a surprise and once they were there, I hoped they’d win it all, but if they had to lose, losing to Japan was a sweet consolation.

Before every match they played, the Japanese team would unfurl a banner thanking everyone around the world for the support they had received and it seemed that they were playing not just a game, but for a countries sense of hope. Similarly (though not really an accurate comparison in the least), the Japanese women beat all the odds to hoist the cup, as the Japanese people are surviving despite being hit with 2 natural disasters (and one human made) all at once.

Another touching part of the story is that Japan’s captain Homare Sawa (who was playing in her 5th World Cup!) scored the most goals in the tournament and brought her team back again and again.

The tournament overall was outstanding and couldn’t have been more exciting. Three of the four quarterfinal matches went into overtime and two of those to penalty kicks (as did the final). The stands were filled and Germany completely embraced the Women’s World Cup, even after their team took a shocking defeat at the hands of the excellent passing, possession and opportunistic Japanese.

Thank you Germany for hosting such a great Women’s World Cup; all the teams for giving it their all; and to Japan for showing us once again that nothing is impossible.

Crazy Women’s World Cup Quarterfinals!

What crazy, exciting games today and yesterday in the quarterfinals of the women’s world cup! Three of the four games went into overtime and two ended up in penalty kicks.

Japan was amazing in their game against 2 time world champion (and hometown favorite) Germany. Their defense, passing and cohesion was awesome. The goal by their young 18-year-old 5 foot sub Maruyama in overtime was incredible and gave them the much deserved win and advance to the semi-finals for the first time in their history.

http://youtu.be/_Xeb3yD9eZc

Then there was the England and French match, which seemed to go on and on, even though France looked the much better team. When it came down to the penalty kicks however, the Brits fell just short.

To top it off was the U.S. vs. Brazil game today. On average, I’d have said the Brazil team is, in their present form, better than the U.S. and wouldn’t have been surprised to see the U.S. lose. Instead, the U.S. scored in the first few minutes and later had one of their players sent off with a red card for a tackle in the box on Marta. It seemed like a fair call to me, but on the insuing penalty kick, which Hope Solo saved, Brazil was given a second try because of an unbelievable call by the Assistant Referee which said she came off her line. In fact, it is clear she made a totally legal and fantastic save of the ball and the game should have stayed 1-0 for the U.S. On the second try, Marta put it in the back of the net and the score was 1-1.

Then they went into a 30 minute overtime period and Marta scored within the first few minutes, giving Brazil the lead at 2-1. The U.S. was playing a woman down all this time, because of the red card during regular time. So, with only 10 players, compared to Brazil’s 11, the US hung in their until Amy Wambach got on the end of a header just minutes before the end of the extended time, and scored. That took them to penalty kicks.

It was during the penalty kicks that my hero Hope Solo made another save and the U.S. won the game!

Talk about being on the edge of your seat! Regardless of what happens next, I don’t see how the semi-finals on Wednesday or the final can be any more exciting than this weekend, but I’ll definitely be watching.

Only 2 Hours Left!


I have never seen such smiles in my life. They were grinning from ear to ear and literally jumping up and down with joy. As the director of the ROP Center for Street Children in Kigali Rwanda, opened the suitcases of donated football (soccer) uniforms from the Excel Soccer Club in Santa Cruz California, it looked as if they had won the ten million dollar jackpot. The uniforms were all used and nothing special, but for these children who have one pair of clothes and are survivors of the 1994 genocide and the AIDS pandemic, the four suitcases full of donated jersey’s, shorts, socks, balls, and cleats were like manna from heaven. Nothing has brought me more joy than seeing them all decked out, like professionals, playing one another on their muddy makeshift field behind the orphanage in the capital of Rwanda. Well . . . almost nothing. There was another very personal quest that coincided with our work in Kigali and that was my herculean quest to obtain a Rwandan national football jersey.

There is something special about the world’s beautiful game and the way it can bring people and countries together. Over the last twelve years, I have tried to find football jersey’s from different national teams around the globe. There was little doubt that since we were in Rwanda I would buy a Rwandan jersey. No problem (nakibazu), I thought. I’ll go to the local sport shop, like everywhere else in the world and buy an official shirt. Not only did I soon discover that there were no “sports shops”, but there was nowhere and nobody that could help.

By the second week I was getting desperate. I saw guys wearing jersey’s all over Kigali and in the north of the country, but they were all from other nations. AC Milan (Italy), Manchester United, Newcastle United, Chelsea, Arsenal and other English Premier League jersey’s were the only thing in site. Local folks told me that the national team games were never broadcast, even though they have a large national stadium solely for football.

During our third week in Rwanda, I was on a lunch break from helping at a training program to reduce post traumatic stress when the APR Football Team, one of the best known in Rwanda, walked in to eat. A number of their players play on the national team. I thought I’d hit the jackpot, but after hounding them like a fanatic fan and getting their autographs, they all said there were no national jersey’s available.

On the last morning of our stay I decided to try one last time and took a taxi out to the national football stadium. There were only four hours left until our plane left. We arrived at the stadium, my hopes rising and entered. There was nobody there, except a guard at the front door. I asked about a sport shop I’d been told was at the stadium and he said there was no such thing. I slouched back to the cab and was about to return to the hotel when the driver said, “Why don’t we check over at the National Football Association? It’s right over there.” He pointed at a large modern structure just a block away. My deepening depression once again switched gears into expectant mania.

We (my interpreter Billy and I) entered the lobby and saw pictures of various national teams on the walls. I approached the woman sitting behind the desk in the large, otherwise empty room and asked if it was possible to buy a national team jersey. She looked at me as if I was a child whose puppy had just died and I wanted it to come back to life. “No,” she said, “only players on the team have those. If you’d like to come back tomorrow when they practice, you could talk to them.” I told her I was leaving the country in three hours and she said she was sorry, but there was nothing she could do. I hung my head and made my way outside. As I got in the back seat and resigned myself to the unthinkable possibility that my dream had come to an end, the woman behind the desk came walking briskly out to the car. She poked her head in the window and said, “Follow me. I made a call.”

When we returned to the lobby, she told us to sit and wait a few minutes and she’d be right back. There were now only several hours remaining until my plane, along with my wife and son, would be taxing down the runway. Fifteen minutes later this football jersey angel glided towards us, handed me a bag and nodded. “This is for you.” I opened the bag and a yellow replica jersey of the national football team of Rwanda shone brightly before my astonished eyes. The smile on my face was as ecstatic as that of the children at ROP when they received their jerseys and from the smile that adorned her beautiful features, I could see that the woman who had given me the Rwandan jersey was feeling the same happiness I’d felt when I had given and received such overwhelming joy from the children. I guess what you put out really does come back to haunt or bless you, and thank goodness it does.

Tag Cloud