Scary Eight Year Old

tanza foot

Monday, 1 July, 2013

Iringa, Tanzania

Much like my younger days, I’ve somewhat become a bit of a playground legend in recent weeks. After a couple of hours of English class, we scoff down a bowl of rice before taking the field – this is where I really shine. I won’t go overboard on the bragging, but I am the break time top scorer by quite a distance.

At twenty-four, I am fifteen years older than anybody else playing; making me the experienced veteran in the side. While they didn’t say as much, I’m pretty sure my teammates value the mature wisdom I offer on the pitch.

My guidance and skill set becomes even more awe-inspiring when taking into account that the ball at my feet is a bunch of plastic bags tied together.

The creative mind of a kid is quite wonderful. They want to play football but have limited resources. Therefore, they imaginatively think up a way to piece together a ball. Sure, it’s only a little thing, but it’s still pretty cool to see. Their smiles beam from ear to ear as they chase a bunch of bags across the field too (especially if they’re lucky enough to be in my squad).

At the heart of the opposition’s defence, you have this kid called Tyson, and truthfully, he scares me a little bit. Granted, he is only eight-years-old, but based on his build, I think it would be fair to assume that he has a side of steroids with every meal. The boy is built like a tank!

Tyson is such a bruiser’s name too. His parents knew what they were getting into at birth when they named him. You’ll never find a soft lad called Tyson. Well, now I find myself having to wrestle my way through a Tyson in order to score my goals.

The Tyson versus Dragon feud took an unfortunate turn for the worst earlier today, when the clumsy defender resorted to foul play, leading to a lot of blood and a diabolical refereeing decision.

After I played a lovely one-two with a little lad called Pharaji, I knocked the ball past Tyson and he clattered me. I went over his outstretched leg and landed on a very hard and dry piece of the pitch. Blood was instantly spurting from my elbow.

The kids played on, I was mesmerised. It was a red card and a three game ban in my eyes, yet not even so much as a free kick. Not only that but they scored on the break away! Yes, we were still 2-1 up after my fantastic brace earlier in the game, but still, what an unbelievable turn of events and shocking level of sportsmanship.

I played through the pain, and it was quite the pain – you just can never give an eight-year-old the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve hurt you though. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting the service and failed to score again for the rest of the game.

Who did score? Only flipping Tyson! Smashing home the equaliser in a game that finished 2-2. Oh, the irony! The boy shouldn’t have even be on the pitch!

Tanzanian playground football has more action and drama than the Premier League! This isn’t over yet, Tyson, see you on the field tomorrow!

The lad is actually a nice kid, just clumsy on the field. He’s always smiling in class and raising his hand. However, once we cross that (figurative) white line we become different people. I become a wizard and he becomes a wrestler.

As mentioned, footballs are not hugely accessible in Tanzania. At least, not at the school I’m offering my time to help anyway. So, the creative children found their own way to counteract the problem.

Well, based on my afternoon stroll over the weekend, it seems that bricklayers don’t have all the usual beneficial equipment either and also use quite the creative approach to ensure that they get their job done.

They were a team of two; one bloke was stood on a sizable shop window ledge two floors up (I can only assume that he was very religious and his faith in God was stronger than a Tyson shoulder barge) wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and some flip-flops.

While his buddy, who most definitely won the coin toss, threw bricks up to him from the side of the road. The bloke was catching them pretty cleanly too, before adding cement and then slotting them into his extra layer of bricks.

I watched them go to work with great interest for a few minutes – to them, this was simply the norm, nothing more than a mundane shift. Yet, to me it made for fascinating viewing. Their performance had all the makings of a great show – the talent, the trust and the high risk factor. If only I was an agent, The Brick Boys could be my quick way to a cool million.

In addition, there was a woman selling shoes in between them. This lady didn’t even so much as batter an eyelid at the continuous bricks flying over her head. Unknowingly, she was adding even more to the show – at least, from my perspective anyway.

Her footwear was alright too, but there was no way that I’d be going to inspect it further. I could end up with a brick to the head – as Tyson proved, I’m not actually that brave.

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It would appear that all the money that could have been going on footballs, ladders and safety helmets was going on guns – bloody huge ones too. The security guards that stand outside cash machines seem a tad excessive; these blokes have huge AK47 assault rifles swinging around their necks.

My fingers have never been as shaky as they are when I prod in my four digit password at a Tanzanian ATM. You’re not in any way a criminal, you know that, but you also know that you have a bloke with a massive shooter watching your every move? Guns make people uneasy.

What if I type the wrong password? What if I seem to be taking too long? What if he occasionally just shoots an innocent person for practice? God damn it, why didn’t I bring Tyson along as backup?

A security guard actually started a conversation with me a few days ago – a friendly chap, but a friendly chap with a gun. The man could have been the peace loving Buddha, and told me about how removing any negative thoughts will improve the mind. I’d still be thinking, bloody hell, a man with a gun wants to talk!

The bloke simply asked where I was from and why I chose to visit Tanzania, and I guess my answers of “Tanzania” and “It’s the greatest country in the universe” were good enough to spare me my life!

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