Sometimes, All We Need is a Ball
My Dad grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. He often tells me that he would walk to primary school past trails of destruction left in the aftermath of conflicts resultant of the Mau Mau uprising. Aside from the wonderful, natural surroundings, his psychological escape from the horror and carnage that besieged his home country was the ability to tape bundles of socks together and play football with friends until the sun set. My visual of this is beautiful: a group of children playing football barefoot in the wondrous African landscape while the sun sets behind them.
All they needed was a ball.
Fast forward to my youth where I had the blessing to play organised football with some of my closest friends. However, even if I hadn’t played league footy, the feeling of a ball at my feet in an open space of green, the smell of fresh cut grass, the ruffle of leaves within the trees when a gust of wind approached and the thump of the ball hitting the outside wall of my elementary gymnasium was enough solace and fortitude to create a sensation of peace within. I endured numerous health issues throughout my youth, one life-threatening, yet my lowest mental point came when I couldn’t play football.
All I needed was a ball.
Society will undergo transition throughout eternity however, the one thing that will remain constant is the simplicity to which football can be incorporated and the joy which it can bestow upon any participant.
My Uncle had an excellent football career which has given him a foundation to express his experiences with joy, pride and passion however, he did endure disgusting verbal attacks throughout – mostly because of the colour of his skin. Being an East Indian footballer in the 1960’s playing for some illustrious clubs in London he was subject to immense racial profiling through humiliating commentary. The vile attacks made him stronger and there wasn’t a moment he ever thought about packing it in. He loved the game and no matter the pressure, stress or anxiety which he may have battled, the feeling of playing football trumped everything else.
All he needed was a ball.
I watched a documentary recently titled ‘Les Bleus’ which I highly recommend. The documentary profiles the French National Team throughout history with a primary focus on the rise to prominence they experienced with Zinedine Zidane as their fearless leader. The documentary goes much farther than just the expression of beauty which the National Team displayed to express how they brought a society of locals and immigrants together through football. Black, Blanc, Beur is the name given to the National team in France which unifies the three skintones most prevalent in French society.
It was quoted by a French president that Football shouldn’t shoulder the responsibility of fixing societal problems however, I don’t entirely agree. While I feel that football doesn’t have the capacity to completely resolve issues, I do feel that the fraternity of football should take responsibility to be a vehicle for positive change. I witness it on a weekly basis when I play. Groups of guys and girls playing together as one, despite their cultural and religious differences, with and objective of enjoying the beautiful game and being successful. The aftermath is social bliss of congregating in unity to share each others company.
Football has the ability to bring peace, humility and love in certain circumstances. While the beautiful game itself cannot solve the issues which the world is facing, it does provide an escape to dream, to love and to unite against all that is wrong - and this is why I love this game.