Mocimboa Da Praia, Mozambique
Four and a half months of hard work and preparation finally paid off.
After spending a week and a half in Mozambique hand delivering over 1000 pieces of new Adidas soccer gear (including 500 soccer balls) hosting a skills training clinic, installing a new water well for a village and organizing a regional youth soccer tournament, I realized the PLAY [well] Cup project had been a success. With the help of some amazing people, we were able to create a once in a lifetime opportunity for many poverty-stricken kids in Mozambique.
First of all, I’d like to say thanks to the crew who traveled to Africa and helped make the project happen. These guys are amazing.
- Dan Covert and Andre Andreev, owners of Dress Code, a design production firm out of New York City specializes in motion graphics, video production, and branding & design. Dan and Andre are two incredible guys who work so well together. They are encouraging and also share a monster passion for soccer.
- Veronica Balta, a freelance producer out of New York who met the Dress Code guys when they all worked together at MTV a few years ago. She is highly organized and super sweet. If you ever need someone to get something done really fast, and you want it to look cool, she’s the girl.
- Adam McDaid, the master camera man. Adam is a dedicated cinematographer and actually helped film Indiana Jones: The Crystal Skull. Jade and I were both jazzed to have Adam along on the trip and capturing the project.
- Randy Krallman, AKA Randog, commercial/film director and soccer fanatic who has a great sense of humor. The fact that the only pair of shoes that he brought to Africa was a pair of Van’s says it all.
- Ian Allen, the calm, collected photographer from San Francisco and owner of Ian Allen Photography. When you see his shots you’re going to be blown away. His luggage was lost on the way to Africa and he managed to survive without a complaint.
- Neven Subotic, professional soccer player for Borussia Dortmund and founder of the Neven Subotic Foundation is one of the coolest guys you’ll ever meet! Just the fact that he was with us, sharing the beautiful game with less fortunate kids, shows how big his heart really is. He is super confident, and believes in himself which allows him to be one of the best defenders in the world. Neven is awesome.
- Bogdan Ivanovic, AKA Bobo is a great dude. So encouraging, so positive, and so fun to hang out with, he should have his own talk show. The trip wouldn’t have been the same if he wasn’t around. Bobo helps give leadership to the Neven Subotic Foundation.
- Brent Kowalski is my coach, trainer and founder of Heart Soccer Academy. Brent is passionate, organized and likes to get the job done. He works hard and spends a lot of time creating unique training environments so young players can grow.
- Samuel Tinho and Jose Nsuca, the PLAY [well] cup coordinators on the ground. Both Tinho and Jose provided the in country connections, leadership and translation. We couldn’t have done it without these guys.
Prior to the semi-finals, Neven, the team and I, accompanied by the president of Mocimboa da Praia, hand delivered dozens of balls to kids in appointed schools and villages. Neven would show some of the teachers and leaders how to inflate and deflate the balls and we’d take turns giving a little speech to the kids. The children loved it.
For two days we hosted a soccer clinic for all the teams that participated in the tourney. Brent and Neven ran the clinics and Jaden and I helped. To see Neven and Brent teaching the basics of soccer to the kids was fantastic. If anyone deserves to learn to kick or head a ball from a professional player, it’s these kids. Most of them don’t have parents or even their own shoes.
The Tournament was called the PLAY [well] Cup because the goal in soccer is to play well. In order to play well, you need to have quality equipment, skills, an understanding of the game, and good health. One of the ways to help kids stay healthy is by providing access to clean, safe water. So installing a brand new water well with Vox United made sense. So that’s what we did. The new well below is the only contained, clean water access point for the village (about 7000 people). More wells are needed.
The semifinals and finals were unbelievable. Not sure what the final numbers were, but my guess was about 3000 people showed up for the closing game of the tournament. At the finals the atmosphere was electric. People were cheering and blowing vuvuzelas. There were ceremonies, presentations, traditional African singing and dancing, and the players took the field like professionals. The players were really engaged and took the competition seriously. You could tell that it meant a lot to them.
The two finalist teams were both from the Milamba village, and Milamba #1 was victorious, winning 1-0. Once the final whistle was blown hundreds of fans rushed the field. The crowd got so thick on the field that you could hardly move!
In a matter of time, all of the participating teams lined up on the field for the awards and presentations. None of the players were aware that they were about to receive their own new Adidas soccer kit and ball. When the gear came out and we began to present it, the kids went ballistic. Nothing like this had ever happened in Mocimboa da Praia. The best moment of the tournament was when I was given the honor to present the cup to the winning team. I watched Neven gather with the guys and jump up and down in celebration, it was magical!
I was asked by the guys at Dress Code what the best part of the project was. I told them that the best part was when we were leaving town and we saw village after village with the kids wearing their new jersies and playing with their new soccer balls.
The whole mission of Charity Ball is helping kids in poverty stricken communities have a ball. That’s exactly what we did with this PLAY [well] Cup project. Would I do it again? Absolutely!
Will I do it again? Stay tuned…
A video documentary and a book about Charity Ball is currently in the works. We’ll keep you posted on further developments.
Special thanks to Play Well Cup sponsors