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Life's a ball (game)

posted Mar 1, 2010, 5:47 AM by Reinoud Vaandrager
Here in Cameroon, the life of the average schoolkids seem to gravitate around the (soccer) ball. Any spare time they can find will be used to play soccer on a local field. no exceptions.

life of a Cameroonian kid = school + soccer

One of those local fields happens to be our front yard (It is nice and square with grass) so we purchased a ball we can give to the kids to play around until it becomes dark. Since most kids are unable to buy a ball of their own, our place quickly became super popular, with kids asking for the ball and playing all the time.

if kids can not afford a ball, they make one.
Such as this orphan did with some old rags.

Since some kids seemed to be skipping school in order to play with the ball, it quickly became clear that we needed to set some stricter rules: You can only play after school from 3 to 6, and on after schooldays from 5-6. This improved things a bit until our neighbor became very angry at the kids walking over his cocoyams (a kind of local potato/root) in his garden whenever they accidentally kicked the ball out of our yard.

Kids playing with the ball in our front yard

So now the kids run around the area in search for new fields to play on (and new neighbors to piss off ;)), but they always seem to find some place to play. One day we gave the ball to a kid that didn't bring back the ball to our house in the evening.. the next day we were walking down the road and saw a bunch of kids walking around that clearly had skipped school. When we asked why they were not in school it turned out that they were on a manhunt to find the kid that stole the ball, reclaim it and bring the thief to justice (by beating him))! Hmm.. this was also not what we intended initially. We sent them back to school but by the end of the day they came to our compound with the little 'thief'. Joshua was around to give him a good verbal pounding (we volunteers are way to soft with the kids apparently) and since then the ball is returned every evening :)

A kid returning the soccer ball in the evening

Because the kids are spending every free moment playing soccer and doing other ball tricks, I thought it was a great idea when Manuel pointed me to this new site where they want to create a soccer ball with an integrated power system that can charge using kinetic energy (basically the kids kicking the ball). I don't know how much energy will generate but it must be a lot! You can check them out on:

Some of our after school students, playing around with the ball before class

Downside is: Balls don't last long - we are already on our third ball here!