We’re back in refugee camp Goz Amer, eastern Chad this week. Today we were able to spend time with the Soccer Academy coaches Souliman, Sadiya, and Issag. They gave us an update of their Soccer Academy—they currently have 670 children registered! The coaches conduct three sessions a day in order to divide up the children by age group. The coaches report that the program is going very well, and they feel it’s been very impactful on the players.
What excited us the most was hearing about the coaches’ work off the field, outside of the Soccer Academy. They have begun to visit primary schools across their camp in order to introduce the Soccer Academy, and to begin to build relationships with the students, teachers, and school directors. In doing so, they aim to get a better sense of the number of young children ages six to thirteen available to participate in the Soccer Academy, and to encourage more children to participate—especially girls. Upon visiting each school, the coaches received very positive feedback from each school director. Souliman shared their words (he had these quotes written down in his notebook):
“This is the first time people have ever come to our school to discuss the importance of football. We will help register more children.”
– Director, Osman Abdullah
“This is great news. I was a coach in this camp once, and I have some balls and players that I would like to share and send to your Soccer Academy.”
– Director, Zakaria
“This is the first time to be introduced to you and the Soccer Academy. We are very happy to hear of this program because with football we can solve a lot of problems in our community. So we will support you.”
– Director, Mohammed
Hearing the feedback from the school directors is a reminder that the Soccer Academy fills a huge gap in sports programming for young children in these camps. No organized soccer program exists in which children can advance their skills and learn peacebuilding and health curricula.