10 December 2008
10 December 2008
Today was the beginning of football season at the Complexe Scolaire Mission Tove. It was the “moucherons” today – 6emeA versus 6emeB and 5emeA versus 5emeB. “Moucherons” basically means “fleas”. It’s a cute nickname for the youngest classes in the school. 6eme roughly translates to American 6th grade and 5eme to 7th grade. The actual ages of the students varies a lot more than in the U.S. – from the itsy bitsy 11 year old that all the teachers tease for his size (except me, of course – I’m not up the teasing, yelling at, or corporal punishment that the teachers rely on to keep order). There is one 20 year old in 6eme. He’s recently married – I think it’s really cool that he’s decided to come back in and try to get his formal education. There’s no Togolese GED, so he’s got to go all the way through Billy Madison-style (although without the joy of quick promotion.).
Because of this age disparity, the football team members are generally much larger than the average 6eme or 5eme student. Some of them are pretty tall and muscular for 6th graders. And REALLY good football players (football as in what Americans call soccer).
I’ve never actually played soccer on a team – I was a linesperson for AYSO one year, but I’ve only ever kicked a ball around in very informal settings. So I really have no idea of the rules, much less an understanding of the worldwide obsession with the sport. And obsession it is. Football is everywhere. The majority of my notebooks have football players on the covers – I have to look really hard to find non-football themed notebooks (the one I use to write up my blog has a gorgeous sea turtle on it which makes me think of Crush from Finding Nemo and keeps me “chilled out.”
Anyway. Football here looks pretty much like AYSO. Adults on the sidelines cursing out the referee for ‘bad calls’. Girls on the sidelines screaming out cheers and dancing, paying much more attention to their own shouts than the actual game. If you look a little closer though, you can see clouds of dust bursting up from the field around the players, slipping and sliding on uneven terrain. But why are they slipping so easily? possibly because only two of the players have shoes on. They are running around on a huge field (that we continuously had to shoo chickens off of) where the “grass” (shrub-like green stuff) has been trimmed by 12 year olds with dull machetes. The grass is patchy with dirt – especially after last week’s heavy rain that eroded much of the loose soil away. Two boys wore shoes. About 5 others wore mismatched socks. The lucky ones even had two pairs. I even saw a boy with only one sock on (and a huge hole through the heel).
It was an amazing game.