I do not think you can find anything more infectious in this world than a child’s smile. The greatest part of the tournament at KwaPata High School in Edendale was the amount of smiles I saw throughout the day. Each child that participated in the tournament was smiling while playing football or even cheering on their friend on the sidelines. Even though I walked off the pitch with a serious sunburn, I did not care because I was overwhelmed with happiness.
First off, my name is Kathleen. I am an American university student studying abroad in South Africa. I came to South Africa to do a research project. I was interested in looking at the concept of sports and development. The WhizzKids United proved to be the best non-governmental organization to do a case study! Now that I have introduced myself, I can get back to the tournament.
The whole day is based around the tournament. All the children who have gone through the life skills program get to participate in the games. Students are divided into teams consisting of an equal amount of boys and girls and each team represents a certain country. We started off the day with 8 pitches with four teams on each pitch. The teams on one pitch played each other. The team with the most number of wins advanced to the next round.
I have to be honest with you guys, I had team USA on my pitch, and so I was a little biased from the start. With tremendous pride, the kids of team USA advanced to the second round beating England, Algeria, and Slovenia!!!! In a surprising second round, USA played Ghana on my pitch. After a couple of minutes, the whistle blew to signify the end of the game and no one had scored a goal yet. In order to determine which team would go to the next round, the teams went into a shootout! In an exciting shootout, I saw a girl from team USA send a beautiful shot into the back of the goal to advance USA once again! At this point, I believed USA would go all the way! This would be the first World Cup we have won in years. Eventually, in the third round, Mexico destroyed us, 3-0. However, Mexico did end up winning the tournament. Essentially, we lost to the champions, so I was okay with it.
What I loved about watching these games was the high level of play by boys and girls. I mean these students could go to the South African Premier Soccer League and start playing for AmaZulu. In fact, AmaZulu might have a better record with these kids on their team. It was obvious these students possessed a deep passion for the sport. My heart was overjoyed to see girls scoring goals. They did not let the boys trample all over them. They came up to the boys and swept the ball right off their feet. I believe this speaks to the success of the life skills program. Many girls start off timid and disinterested in the program. The girls in the tournament were kicking the boy’s ass! Pardon my French.
Finally, the day ended with an award ceremony and a whole lot of Vienna hot dogs distributed to the students. I walked away from the day physically exhausted from standing out in the blazing South African sun, but my spirits were high. This was an experience I will never forget all because of the smiles and the joy these students brought with them to the pitch.