Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Out on the Pitch

We kicked off a new program called “Just Play” on Monday. The program is to get kids ages 6-12 playing soccer in school. Our job here at Football Federation Samoa is to train the teachers on football basics so they can deliver the program as we monitor the progress and support them when they need help. The teachers get great materials too. Not only do they get a nice book detailing 12 sessions they can run, but also four ball bags each with two balls, a ball pump, a whistle, eight bibs, four cones, and eight markers. That is an amazing amount of gear and these schools are so lucky to have this gear for the kids.

The course is two days long for each group and we have two groups of 20 teachers and 2 volunteers from a community. We also had two Peace Corps Volunteers who attended the first session. It was nice to see them come from all the way out in Savaii. They enjoyed the course and got some nice gear to take back and run the program out in the rural villages where they live.

Colin, the technical coordinator for the “Just Play” grassroots program, flew in from the Oceania Football Confederation offices to instruct the first group and we here at FFS are now instructing the second group. The course is mostly on the field, so that has been fun being outside instructing people on how to set up a small training session, how to run drills and games, as well as how to effectively run the session.

Days have been long, but seem really short since I get to knock a ball around all day (what a rough job I have this week). Some of the teachers aren’t bad players either so the program should go well.

I was very excited to start this program because it is a true grassroots effort at trying to get a solid foundation for soccer here in the islands. We have some really good players in the National League, but only three youth teams and those are all U-15 boys. So there is no youth league for girls and nothing for the young kids (unless they want to get knocked around by kids several years older). Without a solid foundation, soccer here will not succeed nor grow. So I am excited to see if this program works and stirs interest in the schools so that maybe the Federation can start some new leagues.

I’m excited about the next six weeks as well because we will be out at the schools monitoring the program and helping the teachers deliver the program if they need the help. So I get be out of the office and still be working, which is always good (I don’t do well in offices).

A shout out to the US Men’s National Team...way to finish top of the pool and move on to the next round. I don’t know where I’m going to find a tv, but I will be watching on Saturday morning. GO USA!!!!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Addendum to Below

So it turns out that Transam, the company the Peace Corps soccer team played Friday night and lost to, played with a player who is registered with the National League. Registered players can not play in the Business House Tournament and teams who play those players are given a default loss. So the Peace Corps team actually won the game last Friday night 3-0.

Our team practiced last night at Apia Park. We kicked a ball around for a bit and then scrimmaged some soles who were hanging around. It was fun playing pick up with random people; although the field was less than ideal, divots everywhere and grass was a really long which made things interesting (never knew where the ball was going nor if your pass would get all the way you wanted it to go). Samoan soccer, at least with these guys and in most of what I've seen in the league, is very much an individual game. Some of our guys were frustrated trying to get things working, only to pass the ball to a sole and never get the ball back.

We have practice again tonight. Some of our team is very pro-active in the practicing. I didn't want to be too hard with always practicing, but they are calling practices so it is clear they want to win. We have a few new players for our game Friday; hopefully a good result will come out of it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Greatest Month of This Year is Here!!!!

June 11 to July 11 will be the most exciting month of this entire year…it is World Cup month. I would love to be in South Africa for this!

USA took on England for their first match in the FIFA World Cup. This is a re-match of the 1950 World Cup game where the US (at that time a bunch of nobodies) took on England (the creators of the sport we know as football) and played for a 1-0 victory. According to football legend, in England the result was reported as 10-1 in favor of England. People operating the wire thought the 1 in front of the 0 must have been dropped because there was no way the US could beat powerhouse England. They were quite disappointed to learn otherwise.

This time around the sides were a bit more evenly matched, but US was still a huge underdog. The USA managed a 1-1 tie, which in reality is just about as good as win (at least we got a point out of it). They didn’t necessarily deserve it and the US is lucky they have one of the best keepers in the world between the posts because if Tim Howard hadn’t come up so huge the game would have been 3-1 easy. Also lucky that Clint Dempsey’s shot (while not pretty and should have been an easy, routine save) found the back of the net. But it doesn’t matter how it gets there, only matters that the ball crossed that line. The US did a fairly decent job shutting people down (Rooney for one), but again are lucky Tim Howard is an American. But well played boys…GO USA!!

I was lucky to be able to watch the game since I don’t have a tv. It might have killed me otherwise not knowing what was going on in such a huge game. But our very nice charge de affairs let us have a sleep over at her house and watch the game. The house is so nice…full kitchen (we took advantage of that by fixing a spaghetti dinner), ac, couches and chairs, and best of all cable tv complete with ESPN and Discovery Channel. So it was a pleasure to watch the game in the company of other Americans and at such a nice location. I nearly had a heart attack when Jozy Altidore’s shot was deflected by the keeper and hit the post late in the second half.

The Peace Corps are celebrating the World Cup by playing in the Business House Tournament up here at FFS. We had our first game Friday evening. We lost, but considering most of us have little soccer experience that’s not to be unexpected. We really didn’t do too badly also considering the other team practices and have been a team for a few years and we are a rag-tag team with little experience. I played between the posts for the game and had a few good saves. I also now remember just how much being a keeper can hurt…hitting the ground after a dive seems to hurt more than I remember, reminds me that I had a 2+ year gap in playing. I’m not sore though so that is good.

A bit of randomness here: I was jogging a couple of weeks ago when I saw an owl flying overhead. I didn’t know Samoa had owls, but this one was beautiful. It was a white barn owl (Tyto alba).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Less than 90 Days and Counting

Not much is going on at the moment, other than the usual shenanigans of course. My official Close of Service date is August 25th, so I’m counting down the days. I’m starting to get excited about going home, but starting to freak out about it too. I’m not sure I’m truly ready to be back in the US; I’ve gotten pretty used to life here in Samoa (even if it drives me nuts most of the time). My sister is coming down when I leave so that should be fun to be tour guide for her.

I went scuba diving a couple of weekends ago. That was fantastic!! We went on two dives with just a little bit of current, enough to feel it but not too much where it is uncomfortable. The current brought in all kinds of animals. We were swimming in schools of fish. We saw 5 turtles, a school of batfish, and 4 spotted eagle rays. I was nearly on top of one of the turtles before I realized it was below me. When we saw the eagle rays, four were moving in sync with each other which was really amazing to watch. I wish I had a video camera for that. One of the turtles ran head on into a stingray…that was amusing to watch, not what you would call graceful.

Up at the Football Federation we are starting a Business House Tournament for local businesses and organizations, so we’ve been trying to get that organized. It’s a half field, 7 a side, 10 week tournament so it runs right up to my last week here in country. I got a Peace Corps team together so I’m excited to start playing next week.

We are also starting a program called Just Play for the schools. We have 20 schools and 2 communities in the trial run and if it goes well, we will expand from there. The goal is to train 2 teachers from each school in the basics of soccer and then those teachers deliver the soccer program to the kids at their school. The schools get basic soccer kits (balls, bibs, cones, etc) to help them deliver the program to the kids. It should be fun if it goes as planned (but that’s the key now isn’t, making sure the teachers actually deliver the program).

That’s about it though. I’m getting excited for the World Cup, can’t wait to watch as many games as possible (even if they do start at 12:30 am). I don’t have a tv, so at the moment watching any of the games will be difficult, but supposedly the Federation is getting a tv so I’ll be able to watch in the office. GO USA!!