Me with some WhizzKids
My name is Katie Gannett, and I am very excited to be visiting the WhizzKids United
program for 2 weeks as part of a research project I will be completing for my studies at Brown University
. I will be conducting my research at the FIFA Football for Hope Festival which will take place in Johannesburg during the final two weeks of the World Cup, bringing together 32 teams of youth from around the world to compete in a football tournament and participate in cultural activities. I initially decided to spend time with Africaid because the organization will be sending four participants to the festival.
In the last few days, we have been busy organizing tournaments for kids in Durban and Edendale. The tournaments have been particularly relevant to my research because they are played without referees according to FIFA Fair Play rules, which will also be used at the FIFA Football for Hope Festival
. At the festival, I will be researching how the football games and cultural activities affect the attitudes of the participants towards countries and cultures that are different from their own—which could be greatly influenced by the lack of referees. Helping to oversee the WhizzKids tournaments has given me a chance to observe how the kids play without referees, and I have been quite impressed on the whole. During one game, I looked up and saw the ball go in the goal so I called out, “2 to 0 for the Netherlands!” But the Netherlands player who scored came over and said to me, “No, ma’am, my goal does not count because the goal was falling apart when I scored.” Another time, a girl came over to me and complained that the boys were not passing to her, but just at that moment her team scored and she ran right back out cheering and laughing.
I had the chance to talk with small groups of children after a few of the tournaments, and it was very interesting to hear their views on the WhizzKids program as well as the tournaments. The kids all really liked participating in the program, which they said had taught them about HIV/AIDS, setting goals, and being confident in themselves. They also had a wonderful time playing in the tournaments, although they agreed that playing without referees was challenging. Based on my observations of the tournaments and my discussions with the WhizzKids participants, I can clearly see that the program has been incredibly beneficial to the kids, offering them a unique opportunity to learn essential life skills while participating in something that they truly love.
I look forward to seeing the four WhizzKids participants and their coach again at the festival in a few weeks!