Hallo und wie geht’s dir?! from Freiburg in Germany.
International Children’s Football Alliance Ambassador Becca Todd writes:
Freiburg is a wonderful town in the South West corner of Germany, currently my home and also home to a huge influx of refugees in recent months. I believe sport is the best way to connect people and have fun, so as soon as I arrived I wanted to get stuck in, and try to do something for the kids here and the refugees. Coaching here has been a totally different challenge to other parts of the world I’ve been in, as I’ve had to learn a new language from scratch!
As you can imagine, my first few months of coaching sessions have sounded similar to a cave woman trying to give instructions!! But somehow the players have managed to get used to my English / Deutsche mix and with the help of a lot of body language we can communicate and play!
Here in Freiburg I am working with a charitable project from the University of Freiburg called Kick. Kick offers opportunities for both long term refugees, and recent arrivals to the country to have a chance to play sport. There are projects running everyday all over the city with a whole range of different groups and ages, which is great, as often financial, cultural or language barriers can limit opportunities for migrants here.
One of the groups I work with is for teenagers and young adults who have moved to Freiburg in the last couple of years from their home countries in Africa, the Middle East or Asia. There is such an awesome international mix of people! Last week in my team we had players from Cameroon, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, and added to that mix are an international students college, so we have our own version of the United Nations playing football together! The matches get pretty competitive and testosterone levels are very high (sometimes it is fortunate that the players don’t understand each other’s’ expletives!!) But at least it’s an opportunity for all the players to release the stress of struggling in a new country, and feel part of a group of people in a similar situation.
The other group I have is completely different. The players are kids aged 9 to 14 that have arrived from Syria, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan as refugees in the last few months. They live in a sports hall that has been converted into temporary accommodation for 1000 refugees. After travelling huge distances and taking a massive risk to leave their homes, they are now awaiting the next step in their lives. Going into the sportshall is pretty sobering, it makes me realize that any difficulties we have had adjusting to the new culture are absolutely nothing compared to the challenge that these people are facing.
The kids have nothing to do during the days, and no structure, so it is unsurprising that our sessions together have been pretty chaotic so far! Perseverance is the key! The most mayhem was definitely a couple of weeks ago when we had training in the snow. It was the first time that they had experienced snow, so any football was a right off, and our session just turned into a snowball fight!
We try to do a variety of sports and games with the kids, with the aim to get them active and having fun, and also trying to teach them how to relate to each other and play with respect (they have pretty quick tempers!). Easier said than done when we don’t speak the same languages! Despite breaking up a lot of fights and disagreements, we have succeeded in playing British Bulldog, races and DuckDuckGoose, as well as football matches. Progress! It is great to see the kids laughing and celebrating their goals, even if it is just a moment of happiness in a very difficult ordeal for the kids.
The other teams that I am involved in coaching here in Germany are the U12 girls’ team of my football club and the youth team of my rugby club (yes I have started playing rugby here, never too late to learn!).
I am hoping that over the next few months we can bring the German kids in the clubs with the refugees to share together an experience and learn about each other’s cultures. I think it is really important for the German kids to learn about the effects of conflict and the experiences of the refugees, who are the same age as them, living in the same city, but with totally different lives.
In September I hope to bring the Freiburg RC youth rugby team to the Global Peace Games in Belgium, to give them a chance to not only have an incredible experience playing sport with kids from other countries, but also learn about the terrible effects of war firsthand, so that history doesn’t continue to repeat itself, and thus that the global situation improves for future generations of kids.
I hope you’re all enjoying the great British summer! Meanwhile Winter here in Chile has been really fun and fútbol-filled!
Chile recently hosted the Copa America; it was amazing to see the whole country getting behind “la roja” (the national team)! Despite being a bit of a cliché; it really did unite the nation and inspire all the kids (and adults!) to kick a ball around in any spare second of the day! Watching football in South America is so fun! A LOT of singing, shouting, screaming at the TV- and even more amplified when we went to the stadium! The icing on the cake was evidently when Chile won!! Beating rivals Argentina on penalties! A dream come true for the entire population! Despite not actually being Chilean I think it is the most nervous I have been watching any national football team!
Back at the grassroots level, my girls’ football teams have been training hard every week and have shown massive improvement! Yesterday one of the girls told me that “fútbol es mi pasión” (my passion is football!) so hopefully the girls will keep playing for life! During the NCFA National Children’s Football Week I ran a football tournament with some other local schools- my girls’ first ever “away” fixture- so very exciting for everyone! The “fans”-(parents) were (in true latin style) extremely animated on the sidelines! It was a great atmosphere for the girls to make their debuts!!
Last week I organised a festival festival open to all schools in Temuco. We played in the best synthetic pitch in Temuco- which was a massive contrast for the girls from our normal concrete playground- they loved it! However, we have some work to do in training- because the girls had never had so much space to play in!- so it was like watching bees swarm around a honey pot; a trait I’m sure you’ve seen in young players around the world. The girls are aspiring to be the next generation of Chilean stars- so watch this space! Some of them are already training with the women’s beginner squad that I train, so are coming on in leaps and bounds!
The kids in Fénix Club (my inclusive sports club- for anyone to play regardless of their abilities) also celebrated National Children´s Football Week by playing our own version of the Copa America final. (Chile won again!!) We have been focusing on improving their balance, coordination, agility, reaction time and overall cardiovascular fitness in the recent months-(since many of them have not participated in much sport previously due to the restrictions that sometimes come with downs syndrome) and I am delighted to have seen progression in every one of the players. Most importantly they are buzzing with excitement every week and their confidence is soaring- which is so great to see. We have been using a huge range of activities, games and sports to inspire and stimulate the kids- but by far the favourite option amongst all of them is “jugar la pelota” (to play football!) So every Thursday we have the much anticipated match at the end of training! The objective is that the players will continue playing sport, improving their capabilities and reaping all the benefits that sport offers- particularly enhancing their confidence. We have made several videos of our training at Fénix Club if you’re interested in seeing it for yourself! Or head down to Chile on a Thursday afternoon alternatively!!
Here are some photos of my school team (Los Trigales),
the football festivals in Temuco,
my women’s beginner squad (Club Gimnástico Aléman)
and the legendary kids of the Fénix Club!
Muchos saludos y abrazos!
Here are some photos form the last few weeks since I moved to Chile. I’m volunteering everyday in a school called Escuela Los Trigales teaching English, and I just recently started up girls’ football (futbol feminino) in the school; the clubs are going really well so far, with the girls progressing and developing muy rapidamente!! My friend at Eir football donated a couple of balls which has been great, since the school does not have many resources, despite a huge amount of enthusiasm! Along with my boyfriend’s rugby team, we’ve also introduced rugby into the school, which has managed to get a lot of boys up early on a saturday morning!! An achievement in itself!
I’ve also started up an inclusive football club catering for young people with disabilities, inspired by my friend’s brother Felipe who is fanatical about football but hasn’t been able to enjoy mainstream football due to his physical limitations from Downs’ Syndrome. We started last week and the kids seemed to have a great time- their favourite was football with the giant pilates balls (which is very fun for anyone to play!)
Today I visited some rural schools int he countryside with the Municipalidad, on a mission to increase the levels of English around the city. I focused on football as a means of connecting with the kids- so you’ll be pleased to know that kids in rural Temuco can now name all the positions in a football team in English!! Who needs grammar lessons anyway?!!
Aside form teaching and coaching, I am playing for a great club called Deportes Temuco. We play in the top league in Chile!! Training is pretty intense (almost every night for 2.5hours!) but hopefully it will pay off if we can beat Colo-Colo to win the league!!
Both Futbolistas clubs are going awesomely this term! We have sooooo many kids – so now we have a “world cup” tournament every week which gets highly competitive! (Yesterday won by Team New Zealand against Germany, Spain & Brazil- perhaps the first and last time they’ll get this result!!)
I’ve been delighted at how popular my girls’ academy has become! The girls are so much fun to coach and basically scream and giggle for the entire 90min session each week!!
I am currently coordinating a big free football festival for all the local schools to play in today! Just been formulating team names: Putauaki Pythons, Panthers & Pumas. South School Scorpians, Stingrays, Sharks etc etc!
Some of the kids have never played before, so it will hopefully be a great introduction to football for them!!
National Projects Director, Paul Cooper (PC) writes; I have admired many coaches over the years both professional and at grass roots level, but none have had such an impact as Becca Todd (BC). Her extraordinary dedication to children’s football around the world is nothing short of astonishing and her success can easily be measured by the width of the children’s smiles she comes into contact with. We hope to hear a lot more from Becca in the future as the NCFA’s International ambassador.
PC. You have been to so many countries helping kids enjoy football that you would make even Marco Polo blush. What are the countries you have been too so far?
BT. Haha yes football is an awesome way to see the world! It’s like an international language! When you play football with people you can really connect with them & have fun together….Marco Polo missed out on that on his travels!! I’ve played & coached football in England, Ireland, Spain, Malawi, New Zealand (x2), Peru, Ghana (x3), India, Nepal, Kenya, Colombia- and I’m hoping to add a lot more to that list!
PC. Have you had a particular favourite country and why?
BT. I’ve loved all the different experiences I’ve had coaching all over the world. The countries that made the biggest impact on me were Ghana & Colombia. I went to Ghana to coach with a brilliant charity called KickStart Ghana- I can’t rate them highly enough for all they do to help the community develop through football coaching, sports & education. The people in the community of Ho made us all feel so welcome- and they feel like family now; we still keep in touch all the time- and I’m supporting the “BlackStars” for the World Cup! I really miss everyone out there! Their passion for football is unbelievable- everywhere you go you see people playing & even in the most remote spots you’ll find loads of people crowded around TVs following the premier league- it really brings people together!Likewise in Colombia- wow they are loco (crazy!) for futbol!!! The whole country comes to a halt when the Seleccion Colombia plays- and there are yellow shirts everywhere! I had the privilege of being the Team Liaison Officer to the Colombian National Team at the London 2012 Olympics and subsequently went out to Colombia to volunteer. I had an incredible time coaching kids in some of the poorest regions of Cartagena alongside some fantastic local coaches and charities. The kids I coached lived & breathed soccer- and it was a real escape from them from gang crime & violence. Being part of a football team seemed to really give the players direction and something to aspire towards. Some of the highlights were coaching a women’s’ team mainly made of single young mums- I had to get a rickety boat out to an island to coach them; so each session was an adventure! Also coaching an orphanage team with Fundacion Afrocaribe made a real impression on me; I organised some friendly matches for them & when they scored their celebrations were priceless to see!!
PC. Why do you think football is played just about everywhere?
BT. Football is fun, and really easy to play! You can play with any number (often in Ghana we would start with a few kids and within minutes kids would be swarming all over the pitch from nowhere!) and with anything (I’ve seen bottles, rolled up bags, stones etc etc in place of balls!) and anywhere (kids in Kenya found a way to play on the banks of a sewage river in the middle of the slum!) It’s really accessible to everyone, and easy to get started and have a go!
PC. Do you find kids play differently depending on where they are from or their parents financial backgrounds?
BT. Kids all over the world seem to play & enjoy the freedom and fun of football no matter where they are from! It’s great that football is like a universal language! There are differences in how they play- just like differences you see in playing style amongst the adult teams. I think the main differences would be due to how many hours they’re clocking up! In countries where there aren’t things like play stations around- kids are getting far more time on the ball- so you can see that their skills are often a lot more advanced.Out here in New Zealand it’s different because unlike most countries I’ve been to, the main sport is not football but rugby; so as a result some kids I coach have never played football before & play it like it’s another rugby game!
PC. What does football mean to the children that you have encountered on your travels and how have you used it?
BT. Football means so much to so many of the children I’ve met – it’s often the only escape from a hard lifestyle if they are living in poverty. Every child deserves to have fun! For the teams I’ve coached all over the world- playing football gives a feeling of unity & being part of a team- which is so important. For the orphange team I coached in Colombia- their team of friends was like the boys’ family, so it meant a lot to them. Football gives kids something to aspire towards & some inspiration- kids all over the world at coaching sessions tell me they’re going to play in the world cup one day- it’s great that they have something they love to do & want to work towards!! Apart from fun, football can be used to teach life skills- in Colombia I worked with numerous charities that use football to engage kids all over the slum areas- and then bring in social workers to deliver messages about health, education and values. We even went to a tournament once for charity teams- in which points were awarded for fairplay and positive attitudes rather than the result of the game.
I’ve also worked for a fantastic charity called Tackle Africa- that uses football games to educate coaches and children in Africa about HIV & AIDS. The use of football games is really effective for bringing the messages home- and keeps everyone interested! I’m sure a lot of people would rather be educated by football than in classrooms!
PC. Can you please tell us about Futbolistas?
BT. Futbolistas is my coaching organisation- with the emphasis on delivering FUN , high quality coaching sessions that everyone will enjoy! We started out as a girls’ football organisation to give girls an opportunity to get stuck into football (as often girls prefer single sex sessions)- but now we’ve expanded to run clubs for boys too! (We didn’t want them feeling left out!) We also run multisports holiday programmes which have been really successful here on the beaches of New Zealand! We donate 25% profits to the charity I coached with in Ghana- so that they can have fun playing too! Eventually I would like to make Futbolistas into an international charity- that’s the dream!!
PC. Many people are now priced out of watching football in the UK but also many children have been priced out of playing for clubs so in some ways I guess a lot of UK kids may be envious of the children you work with in some of the very poorest and deprived places on the planet. In seems rather ironic – would you care to comment on that?
BT. That’s a shame to hear that UK kids are priced out of club football; there should be something for everyone to get playing. It’s great that the National Children’s Football Alliance is doing something about it! Hopefully there can be a solution for the kids that can’t afford club football, just like the projects that run across the world for other kids.PC. So want is next for you Becca?
BT. I’m really enjoying life in NZ at the moment- it’s such a fun country to live in! I’m coaching sports in a local school called Putauaki School in a poorer region of the country- so it’s really rewarding to see the kids so enthusiastic about sport! They make me really happy! I’m also teaching PE & Outdoor Ed in some High Schools around here, as well as running some Futbolistas sessions and also voluntarily coaching various groups each week- plus playing for a team- so it’s keeping me on my toes!
I think the next step will be coaching in Chile- so I’ll keep you posted on how that goes!! Let me know how I can help NCFA- and all the best for all of your brilliant projects! Thanks for inviting me to get involved in the football week- we will be having a mini “world cup” over here in NZ which the kids are very excited for!