This past Wednesday, I was ready for another quasi-productive English Club theater practice but found out (about an hour beforehand) that today was a field day of sorts at school. I heard a few rumors of a soccer game so I grabbed my shorts and running shoes before heading over to the school in the afternoon. I've been here for three weeks and still haven't had the opportunity (or haven't taken the opportunity...) to play soccer with some kids, so I was psyched. When I arrived at Bassirou Mbecke, loud music was being played over huge speakers by an MC with a noisy mic (a sign of a typical Senegalese party), but no real activities seemed to be taking place. A lot of kids were there for late afternoon but everyone was just standing around. A schedule of sorts dictated that there would be running races and a teachers versus students soccer game. So I started asking around if I could play soccer but most people seemed skeptical (a tubaab girl who plays football?) or told me to wait.
We sat around for a while, hanging out and joking with students. A number of kids were playing a disorganized basketball game against a broken backboard and rusty rim. These are the hilarious older guys that have teaching me street Wolof before English Club starts. Its really fun to hang out with them and they find it absolutely hysterical when I say 'What up boooy' in a Wolof accent and then respond: 'Mangi chiiiilll' (I'm chill). I pretty much just repeat a lot of what they say, but hearing a white girl say the same stuff is way out of context and therefore hilarious. Two of these 'ghetto Wolof boys' are in the English Club play. They're definitely leaders in organizing the club and rehearsals, but they have, without a doubt, the worst English in the group.
So after a while of sitting around, I got bored so I went searching for a soccer ball. I walked up to a group of older teenage boys who were juggling and just entered their circle without really saying anything. They made some weird laughable gestures but eventually passed me the ball. I held my own juggling, which isn't very hard, and they were pretty impressed. I think there were a few 'Eyeeelofff you' comments. They got tired after a while and I left the circle. Then the director of the school came over to me and said: I had no idea you were such a good footballeuse. I said I could play decently and would love to play in a game, if there was going to be one. He said ok, wait a little.
I sat around for a little while longer and then found the school gym coach who said he was going to try not to get hurt in the teacher versus students game. I was surprised that it was actually going to happen, so I told him again that I wanted to play. This time, he handed me a jersey. Wooooo! A sandy area of the school yard was the official pitch, with four cement blocks marking goals on either end. There was a slight warm-up where the teachers (who all seemed young and fit to me) made jokes about just trying not to get hurt. However, they took some very rocket shots on goal and tried out their fanciest juggling tricks and bicycle kicks. The team we were playing against was made up of the oldest boys of the school. I was definitely the only female who was going to play, and as a white female, this was all the more entertaining. After the game started and I was playing well, I was the one entertained as so many of the students and teachers were shocked that I could play. I was essentially having my 15 seconds of Senegalese fame and it seemed that every time I touched the ball, yells and cheers would come from the sidelines. I think the MC was even trying to chant my name.
We lost 2-1, but I had a ton of fun. Despite being the only white, the only female, playing on a sandy and rocky 'field' and calling for the ball in a different language, I felt completely in my element.