So last week I was told that I had been appointed as a netball coach for the girls. I quickly pointed out that I have never seen, much less played netball, and while I would be willing to try, I’m sure there is someone more qualified. As my principal looked at me like I was trying to worm my way out of it, I threw in that I’ve been working with the girls soccer team and so she made me soccer coach instead, alongside the two male teachers at my school.
Today I showed up to practice as the first and only female soccer coach that Brandberg Primary has ever seen. The man who was coaching (surprisingly not one of the teachers appointed, I’m still confused) seemed to have things under control so I told him to let me know if I could help and mostly sat off to the side and watched and cheered (good practice learning the boys’ names!). At the end I played ball girl for a bit while they were doing shots on goal—we have a SUPER good goalie named Dlamini who is a lot of fun to watch.
Then they called me up to shoot (“jefrau, jefrau di le jefrau!”). Now, I played soccer for… oh… 11 years when I was younger, but haven’t touched a ball since high school. I have enough trouble keeping these boys respecting me without making a fool out of myself in front of them, so I tried to politely decline. They would not take no for an answer so I stepped up… shot… and had possibly the most beautiful score of the day. Their reaction was hilarious. Cheering, laughing, it was so loud, mostly just exclamations of “you can kick the ball!” So in addition to inadvertently breaking down racial barriers, apparently I’m having an impact on gender norms too, and without even trying ☺
Oh also, I played in bare feet, since I came straight from buying bread and was wearing my flip flops and all the kids go barefoot. It was so painful. Running on hot sand full of rocks and broken glass… interestingly enough my feet felt the same way they feel when I wear my black high heeled boots for more than two hours… maybe when I get back I’ll be able to walk in them better!