Some Reflections

Juggling at the Whizzkids United tournament in Edendale

I’ve arrived back in the US and it’s good to be home but I definitely miss South Africa! I love thinking back to all of the different aspects of my trip, and I’m so happy that I’ll have the chance to continue working on the research I’ve collected for my senior thesis.

I ended up feeling very positively about the outcomes of the Football for Hope Festival. All of the 15 participants that I interviewed—as well as the 9 others who participated in my focus group discussions—talked about how much they had loved the festival. When I asked what they had most enjoyed about the festival, many of the participants discussed making friends with the other delegations, despite the differences in language. I heard a great story during one of my last interviews: a girl explained that in order to communicate with a member of another delegation who spoke a different language, she would sit next to him at the computers in the entertainment room at Team Village and they would type to each other on google translator—how creative!

Some of the participants had other answers for what they had most enjoyed about the festival. Benjamin from the Nigerian team said that he loved the fame: “We’ve been treated like VIPs, you understand?” haha it’s true that even when the participants were brought to a different location by bus, they always had a police escort with sirens.

Rydan from Team Cambodia said that when he returned home, he looked forward to telling people about the big buildings and roads of Johannesburg. Before becoming a festival participant, Rydan had never been outside of his rural home town. He especially wished to tell other Cambodians about the hygiene practices used by people at the festival. He explained that he was not used to washing his hands with running water before beginning a meal.

The interviews with participants tended to become quite interesting when we would discuss Fair Play. There were clearly issues that still need to be worked out with the Fair Play methodology. During the first couple of days of the festival, there were quite a lot of injuries. A number of games were cancelled part-way through by the mediators because there was too much rough tackling. Although I found the Fair Play to have improved by the end of the festival, I think there are some challenges to consider.

First of all, there is the difficulty of determining just how aggressive one is allowed to be. According to Fair Play rules, if one person thinks he or she has been fouled, that person will raise a hand and then everyone else on the team will raise their hands until the other team stops playing. The kids soon discovered that this meant they could get fouls called simply by raising their hands, so they started exaggerating when they would fall.

Another central issue with Fair Play at the festival simply revolves around the selection of players from each organization. As I had mentioned before, some teams selected the best soccer players to attend the festival, while others selected those who had most contributed to community service through their programs. There does not seem to be an easy way of regulating the selection process to make the level of play more equal.

There is a further question to consider regarding the degree to which Fair Play ought to be emphasized at the festival. Members of streetfootballworld during my interviews explained that Fair Play was given a much greater role than it had been in any previous, smaller-scale festivals. However, even the fact that the trophy for the tournament winners was much larger than the trophy for the Fair Play winners makes me wonder what was really the most important to the participants—winning the tournament or practicing Fair Play.

These are all little issues that I’m considering while transcribing my interviews and focus group discussion. I look forward to compiling the results from the questionnaires in a few weeks.

Now that I’m home, I am having a very hard time articulating my experience during my conversations with other people. “Amazing,” “incredible,” “awesome” just don’t even come close to encapsulating everything and describing the atmosphere of constant energy and excitement.

I want to thank the Brown International Scholars Program again so much for providing me with the opportunity to carry out my project, as well as all of my Brown professors and outside contacts that helped me design my research methodology. I especially want to thank all of the wonderful people that I met while in South Africa from around the world. It was truly unforgettable.

Celebrating Zakumi's birthday at the Grassroot Soccer camp in Soweto

Broom ball at Altus Sport in Pretoria

Hanging out with the police before the US-Slovenia game

Going with the Festival Participants and their vuvuzelas to the Spain-Paraguay quarter-finals match

Watching the closing ceremony of the festival with Rob, Julia, and David

Bungee Jumping with Ruvani