The day after the US and Ghana played in the World Cup, Challenging Heights hosted its own football game. The staff and interns came together to put on a fun, and in my case rather hilarious, show. When we first heard about the match, I think all of us interns underestimated just how intense it would be. For me, I figured it would be a very laid back scrimmage without many rules and with everyone in all manner of attire.
I could not have been more wrong.
When we arrived at the Challenging Heights School, we could hear extremely loud cheering coming from a few of the classrooms. Kids were banging on their desks and were obviously getting worked up. We got to the end of the small football field to a group of picnic benches to put down our stuff, when two of the teachers came bursting out of the school in full football gear complete with bright yellow uniforms. The kids all rushed out behind the teachers to accumulate on the sidelines. As I had learned during the World Cup Match, very few people I have seen get as excited about football as Ghanaians. This was no exception.
We soon realized that this was not the game we had expected. We all had to put on bright red uniforms, and we watched as the teachers already dressed warmed up with intense football tricks. While the two other interns playing had at least some football experience, mine is limited to P.E. class in elementary school. It was quite intimidating.
Regardless, I had said I was going to play and I wanted to play, so I got dressed and headed onto the gravel (this is a key part to this story) field. I followed Chris – another member of the program doing PhD research – out to warm up. He passed the ball to me, and I specifically remember thinking: “oh yeah, this is easy, I got this!” Ha.
The combination of runners with not much traction on slipper gravel, having very little coordination to begin with, and not having played football in years did not serve me well. With my first kick of the warm-up, and with all the kids, staff, and interns watching, I completely and utterly bailed. My feet slid out from under me and I hit the dirt hard. Laughter burst from the crowd of kids. Something I didn’t actually mind, because I always figure making kids laugh is a good thing. One of the kids actually came out to pull me out by my armpits before I had the chance to collect myself. This brought on more laughs. On in all, I was quite a spectacle.
I was obviously fine, but gravel tends to leave scrapes that look worse than they are. I looked down to see blood seeping quite heavily from a scrape on my knee along with blood starting to dripping from my elbow and hand. Great.
At that point, even though I was very clearly a terrible player and had already eaten dirt on the field, I really had to play. You cannot wipe out like that and not try to redeem yourself. Before we started the game, however, people were quite concerned about my knee, specifically the female students. Like I said, it looked worse than it was.
Even though I kept saying it was fine, the kids kept coming to look at it and try to help me throughout the game. One actually brought me tissue and almost insisted on wiping the blood from my knee. I obviously refused and wiped the blood myself – I don’t think others should have to touch your blood – but it was extremely thoughtful.
When the game began, I showed that I really was the just as shitty of a player as I had shown on the field already. Still, the blood dripping down my leg was actually gaining me a fair amount of credit. If anything, I was the injured girl not sitting on the sidelines. By the end of the game, my style of play had been called everything from “awesome” (that was a lie) to “doing your best” and “interesting.” Most of the staff were very good, and it was quite overwhelming at times. Regardless, I had fun and my team won!
The game ended with what I will call a shoot out because I don’t know the proper term. Everyone missed (the goal was tiny and the field extremely bumpy) except for one player on our team. Everyone left in good spirits, joking and still goofing off.
Another adventure in Ghana had involved me making a fool of myself, but I didn’t mind.