On our second day in Mozambique, the villagers challenged us to a game of soccer. We were sure that we would be soundly beaten. Aside from the local missionaries, many of them had never seen a white person before. As we walked to the village soccer field, hundreds of people gathered around to watch. Not only were we going to lose badly…we were going to lose in front of a large audience.
From the start our team was uncoordinated and lacked teamwork. As soon as someone got the ball they’d kick it away either to no one…or the opposing team. Team Mozambique was amazingly well coordinated and had amazing footwork honed by daily practice. In any one-on-one encounter they would always come out on top and with the ball. They scored within minutes and the crowd went wild with cheers. “Yep.” I thought. “We’re gonna lose 20-1”
Our audience was having a wonderful time watching us kick it to their team, stumble, allow the ball to pass between our legs, and trip receive the ball (even when no one was around to hinder us).
It was hot and I hadn’t had enough to drink beforehand. As a striker it was my job to run up and down the entire field trying to get the ball. I was quickly growing tired and decided to focus on offense. Pretty soon our team started getting their game together and it wasn’t quite as embarrassing. In fact, the audience was rather surprised and delighted upon seeing how well our team started to play. Our goalie, Keal, was able to block shot after shot and our defenders were quick to get the ball to our offensive team. After a few more minutes I finally got a hold of the ball and went for the goal. I took a shot…and scored! The crowd went nuts! Maybe we weren’t going to do so poorly after all.
After half-time (and a much needed water break!) we got right back into the game. I got possession of the ball and passed it to Roelf. He took a shot…and scored! Now we were in the lead. We had never expected this could happen. The rest of the game the ball kept crossing the field back and forth, but no one was able to score. Everyone was tiring and then Team Mozambique scored again! It was a tied game. Moments later the referee blew his whistle. The final score was 2-2.
It was an amazing game and it really opened the people to us. Whereas the children had previously feared that we would eat them because we had white skin, they now came running to us and all wanted to shake hands and get a thumb’s up. The local missionary, Phil, told us that this game was an unprecedented event in the history of their village. Although the town plays soccer on a regular basis, they’ve never been able to play against white people before. He said that it would probably now be the precedent that whenever enough people visited they would have a soccer game. It was an unforgettable experience.