“Soccer is one of my biggest passions, I’ve played since I was a little girl. Three years ago, I got the amazing opportunity to build the first soccer team for girls in Bloempoort, in South Africa. I carried out this project together with Godfrey, a sporty guy from a township nearby.
The day Godfrey and I arrived in the village, carrying all kinds of soccer equipment with us, the boys came running towards us right away thinking we were their new coaches. Just moments later, the girls came out of their classrooms, filled with excitement. The kids quickly realized that this time, it wasn’t about the boys. As we took the girls to the court, a couple of local men passed us by, shaking their heads while giving us a disapproving look, as if they were saying ‘Women playing soccer? Ha! No way.’ The little boys kept teasing them, but the girls ignored all of it; grabbed the footballs, and proudly started playing right away. Exactly what I’d hoped for.
Running around on a beautiful football field with football shoes was not a reality in Bloempoort. All we had was a field of hard, red sand to play on. In the beginning, we all played barefoot, so at the end of our sessions, our feet were so sore and swollen. We wanted to make playing football more comfortable for the girls, so that they could play as much as they wanted. So, with the help of the Tjommie Foundation and Ndlovu Care Group, we managed to collect enough fundings to provide our girls with proper shoes and outfits. Oh, their faces when they tried their uniforms on for the first time, it was unreal.
All the girls were all so special in their own way, but there was one girl who touched me in particular. Her name is Fortunate, she was 12 years old and an impressively fast-learning football player. Already after the second training, she asked us if she was ready to start playing at the European level soon. She demonstrated the importance of having the courage to dream, it was such a motivation to all of us. But things got complicated. Fortunate's mother approached us, telling us that her daughter was not focusing on school anymore, that she was only talking about football. She told us she had no other choice than removing her from the football team. In a country where poverty, AIDS, and child-based households are great issues, and education seems to be one of the only ways out, it was easy to sympathize with Fortune's mother. She was afraid for the future of her child. But we couldn’t let Fortunate’s dreams fall to bits, so Godfrey and I decided to talk to her mother once more. We explained how finding a balance between sports and education is possible and even beneficial. After a lot of back and forth, we eventually convinced her. Fortunate and I looked at each other with a big smile, as if we had just snook ourselves out of trouble.
My time in South Africa taught me that no matter where we come from - no matter how different our cultures and our daily realities are - we’re really so similar on the inside, on the most human level. Godfrey has become a friend for life. Singing together to African music and falling into deep conversations made us inseparable. Together, we created the first girls-soccer team of the history of Bloempoort. I will always be grateful to him for that.”
- Noor, The Netherlands