Gothia Cup

CF Gothia shows how football can keep kids off the street

Through sports and social activities, the leaders at CF Gothia, the sports school in Brazzaville, want to keep children off the street – a life often characterized by violence and crime. Ten-year-old Paul is one of those kids. In conversation with our volunteer on site, Sture Genemo, he says that he only dreams of one thing: “I want to become a football professional like Messi!” he says.

On Saturdays, the pitches at CF Gothia are filled with children who come here to participate in the activities. On Saturdays, there are many more who participates since the children are free from school. When I, as a leader, see these children, I am awakened by curiosity. “What do their lives look like outside CF Gothia?”

After the training, I asked a few questions to a boy in the team that I coach. His name is Paul. I ask him how old he is. Paul smiles and holds up all his ten fingers and says he’s ten years old. He says that he plays football four days a week and dreams of becoming a football professional, just like his idol Messi.

CF Gothia is located in an extra-vulnerable area in Brazzaville for violence and crime. The school is therefore important because it offers the children a safe environment with several adult role models.

Paul says that he, like many other children at the school, lives in the area where the school is located. He can therefore walk to school in just a couple of minutes. Right now the situation in the area is calm, but it’s still important that the children walk home immediately after the training has ended. This is to avoid staying on the street when the sun sets, so the children don’t encounter criminal gangs, but also to calm their worried parents. Just like in Sweden, the parents want the children to come home on time, so they can be in bed on time to be able to focus on school the next day.

Paul lives with his mother, father and five siblings. His mother sells fruit in a fruit stand and his dad works in a photo shop. Paul’s parents have enrolled three of the siblings at the sports school. The other two siblings are adults. Paul says that his mother likes that he participates in the social activities at the sports school and the possibility for him to get help with his homework, and that he participates in the training sessions.

I ask Paul what he has learned at CF Gothia.

“To shoot hard and to pass the ball! And I also learned how to be a good friend”, Paul answers happily.

Paul is aware that even as a football professional, you have to show respect to your teammates. Paul’s focus is soon directed away from the conversation and his eyes turns towards the pitches outside the window. It is obvious that football and friends are the most important things in his life right now.

Do you dream of any other job besides becoming a football star?

“No” Paul answers as he wrinkles his nose.

Text and image: Sture Genemo, volunteer at CF Gothia

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