Xenophobia Awareness match day Michelle’s Plain

Match Day in Mitchell’s Plain

Sunday, June 20, 2010

By Eduardo Avila

The previous days had been rainy in Cape Town, so everyone had their fingers crossed that the soccer match would not be played on a flooded field or worse, cancelled altogether. This game had not been scheduled for the new Stadium at Green Point as part of the 2010 World Cup, but rather, the game was being held on a ample green field in the township of Mitchell’s Plain. Thankfully, the sun was out in full force as the two teams, supporters, and local residents would gradually gather for the highly-anticipated 1:00 p.m. kickoff.

It was the second match for the Refugee IV soccer team, as part of the “Kicking Out Xenophobia Awareness Tournament” and the day’s match would pit the traveling team comprised of a mix of African migrants and South Africans against the local team Leeds United.

While it may have appeared to be just a friendly soccer match involving highly energetic teenagers during a soccer-mad time in the country, the purpose for bringing the two teams together was much larger in scope. An important part of the pre-game ativity is the discussion held between the two teams to explain the tournament’s mission. One of the chief organizers and team midfielders, Ephraim Ntlamo, would explain to the hosts that the game was meant to show that if teams could play together despite their differences in backgrounds, then why couldn’t they live side by side.

Soon after the opening whistle, it soon became obvious that there was an eclectic mix of nationalities on the pitch that afternoon. Teammates would bark out instruction to one another in different languages. The local Leeds team would communicate in Afrikaans and in English, while with the Refugee IV team, one could hear French and English, as well as indigenous African languages such as Xhosa, Zulu, and Shona. Despite the differences in languages, the teams’ play showed that soccer is a universal language that transcends borders and other dividing lines.

Apart from the jerseys showing the tournament’s logo and schedule, as well as a handful of journalists onhand to cover the match, the game played out just like any other match on a holiday afternoon. There were goals, fouls, and shows of sportsmanship, as well as a winner and a loser.

Leeds United emerged victorious 5-3, as their four years playing together was a big advantage over the Refugee IV team that had been together for about a year. While the result was not what had been hoped for, there was no time for regret, as the Refugee IV gathered their belongings and grabbed a quick bite to eat, then boarded the bus to the local Fan Park to watch the Spain-Switzerland World Cup match together as a team.Written by Eddie Avila http://reportingdna.org

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