Soccer Madness

A view of the soccer stadium on game day.

(From an dateless journal entry while in Lira)

It is hard to believe the United States does not celebrate the sport of soccer in the same way in which many other countries of the world do. It is also a shame. Even though I have minimal soccer skills (ask my classmates who watched me desperately attempt and fail to score one goal against a bunch of children less than half my size), being able to recognize the rules and setup of a sport brought me closer to the children we were with.

Soccer is so much more to them than a sport. The first night we played, we did not even play the game with a soccer ball; we played with a plastic water bottle. They barely noticed because for them soccer is not about who wears the best jerseys, which brand of shoes works best, or the quality of their ball. Soccer is a time to celebrate in a friendly and competitive spirit as well as distract themselves from their daily struggles. Soccer relieves their stress, anxiety, and possibly even pain. I know watching this random white girl prance around like a baby gazelle chasing after a ball gave them a good laugh.

Although it was a slight jab to my dignity, I laughed with them; I played their game with them and I related to them in some way for that hour or two out on that field. It did not matter that we were from another country, older, and twice their size. They immediately made us their teammates and welcomed us onto their field, a place that felt almost sacred. (End of entry)

In an anthropology course, I read a book by Janet Lever called Soccer Madness which discusses soccer’s role in society in Brazil. However, as I watched the motorbikes packed with people in their bright yellow jerseys headed to watch the soccer match last week, I could not help but notice a similar role in the community in Uganda. Lever states that sporting spectacles such as soccer “belong to the world of the sacred rather than the profane; fans who say sport provides an escape from ‘real life’ in effect sustain this religious distinction …. Like the effect of a religious celebration, sport fosters a sense of identification with the others who shared the experience.”

Keep on keepin’ on,

Gabby

To those with nothing, soccer is everything.”- Celia W. Dugger

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