Soccer with the Locals

28 Apr

One of my fondest memories of volunteering with Peru’s Challenge was playing soccer with the men of the village. We had a 3 week tournament and it was intense. Firstly, we were playing at a high altitude and secondly, these men were solid. The men we versed were the builders and construction dudes who seemingly did not sleep or rest. They were on site hammering away well before we arrived and they were still building when it was our home time. They are the hardest working people that I know. A friendly game of soccer was no different. They were as tenacious on the field as they were with wheelbarrows and shovels.

Our team consisted of 19 Macquarie university students, all of which had moderate experience in football. We constantly needed to sub every 5 minutes because running was laborious on that mountain. The men of Quilla Huata played the whole time, never even stopping for water. They were like macho men robots. Of course, they were acclimatised but they were still fit fit fit despite being well into their 50+ age bracket apart from a few younger guys.

They had such a great joy when they were playing, often yelling to each other in Spanish, an advantage they had because the rest of my peers never understood what they were saying. The first game we won and the second game they won so the last game was interesting. With an onlooking crowd comprising of village kids, mums and Mac students, the game began with the usual formalities of playful threats and awkward stretching to get the muscles working. So when the ball was in motion, the whole world stopped and watched on. By this point, us Mac players were getting fitter and were pretty used to the altitude therefore the game was evened out. As a result, the ball enjoyed being kicked to and fro without any real purpose.

We kicked, then they defended, then they kicked and we defended and so forth. Despite the repetition, the game was really engaging. There were no lukewarm players on the field that day. Everyone ran their money’s worth. It was fun. At the end, we ended up winning but I secretly think that they let us win. But I guess I will never really know.

I loved engaging with the community in a different way like soccer. It was something that we loved and something that they loved and it bought us together. We all got jerseys made for our team and on our last day, we presented them with their own personalised ones too. They loved it and smiled their gap toothed smile as a way of thanks.

Gearing up before our first game

And we're in play!

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