29 October 2018

This summer, young leaders from Tiempo de Juego and SALT Academy headed to the Czech Republic to experience football for good beyond their local pitches, in a different corner of the earth. Together with their hosts, streetfootballworld network member Fotbal pro Rozvoj, they spent a month travelling around the country with four Czech young leaders, visiting the organisation’s local partners, hosting workshops with local children, participating in tournaments and cultural activities. Brayan Castellanos from Tiempo de Juego and Somarey Tim from SALT Academy share their personal accounts of this experience…


Somarey Tim, 22, SALT Academy


My name is Somarey Tim and I am 22 years old. I was a part of Mighty Girls at SALT Academy, Battambong, Cambodia. After getting a high school degree at Dewey international school, I became a goalkeeper coach, for the Mighty Girls team. This is my personal account about having the opportunity to go on a journey with Fotbal Pro Rozvoj in the Czech Republic.


Football is my best friend. It always inspires me and makes me happy and has also given me a lot of friends. When I was a child, I lived in the orphanage with my two sisters and my brothers in different houses. I was the only girl who used to help the house mother as a good daughter. The house mother never let me play with the boys. I also wasn’t supposed to know what football was. One time, when I was playing football with my childhood friend, I noticed that it was the first time that I was able to smile. Then I stared training with the Mighty Girls team which is a part of SALT Academy. But during that time I started having issues with my neighbors that girls weren’t supposed to play football. As a result, I got evicted by the director of the orphanage. After I gave it my all, SALT selected me to become part of the Mighty Girls Programme. Football has changed my life. It isn’t only for fun, it also educated me by, for example, building my leadership skills, my ability to inspire women and men in Cambodia to have the right to play especially, girls from challenging backgrounds or unsafe places.


I was very excited to get the opportunity with Fotbal Pro Rozvoj and take part in their campaign. On the first day of the campaign we received an incredible welcome. There were so many beautiful buildings with different styles of architecture in Prague, the traffic was so good. The traffic and people’s lifestyles are completely different from what I know!


Next, we had a meeting with all of the participants and each of us had to give a presentation about our organisation. The countries represented were Cambodia, the Czech Republic and Colombia. We shared experiences about how young leaders can become good leaders. During the first week, we started training together, having stereotype workshops, cooking sessions, storytelling, cultural exchange programmes etc. We divided into three groups to oversee the implementation of a workshop, a football3 tournament and the management of the programme. It was a great opportunity for us that we could take time to discuss the purpose of the programme from each country’s perspective and to create some methods to work better with disabled people, teenagers and the kids in the next regions we would visit. From week to week, we got a leader from our team to guide us to the new regions until the end of the campaign.


I returned from the programme having gained a lot of knowledge, experiences, with increased confidence to speak in public, motivate others, work in groups, with more ideas and strategies to develop my organisation. It was the best time for me ever.


Last, but not least, I have integrated some of those activities into my daily work. From 13th August to 7th September 2018 our organisation carried out a project called ‘Summer camp’. First of all, I selected 50 girls under 16 from different communities, some of whom left school because their parents couldn’t support them. That’s why we decided to take the 2 months of their vacation to educate them by using football as a tool. We held English and computer classes at 8:00-9:00am. Then, we gave them a few workshops and they went to training in the afternoon from 4-5pm before returning home. Every Friday we had field trip with them, we went hiking up mountains and organised a football3 tournament.


From the 21st-24th of September, SALT Academy cooperated with World Vision to host a football Festival in Phnom Penh. Together with one of my colleagues, I was working to teach the 20 young leaders about the mediation of football3. In the future I hope our girls or staff get the opportunity to join this programme again!


Brayan Garay Castellanos, 21, Tiempo de Juego


My name is Brayan Garay Castellanos, I'm 21 years old, am from Bogotá, Colombia and I work with Tiempo de Juego located in Cazucá, Soacha, Colombia. I have been participating in the organisation for the past 12 years, during which time I have learned that positive leadership and the desire to get ahead always take you to magical places. And one of those places was the beautiful and beloved Czech Republic, a country full of history, castles, trains and kids who live out the passion of football as an opportunity to share and learn.


It was just after I had finished studying English that I was given the great opportunity to travel to the Czech Republic to participate in the annual campaign that local organisation and fellow streetfootballworld network member Fotbal Pro Rozvoj carry out around country showing the powerful impact that football3 has. It was very rewarding to share experiences with different cultures and to learn from them; moreover to see that football is a universal language which breaks barriers and stereotypes.  In addition, the best reward that you can receive is to see the happy and sincere smiles, cheerful faces, sweet hugs of the kids at the end of each workshop or tournament.


The Czech Republic welcomed me with cold and rainy weather but some quality and loving people who, from the first day, made me feel at home.


It was interesting to cook for other people and share the food from my country, teach them traditional games of my culture and make them understand that Colombia is not drugs, conflicts, war or gangs because for many people in the world, this is the only image they have of the country. During the stereotypes workshops it was powerful to see that when the participants were asked what they knew about Colombia, the majority of responses had to do with drugs and drug trafficking.


During the first week, I gained a clearer idea of the programme and came to understand that the people who were there had the potential to generate small changes from their actions and that we all had the same idea to change our communities.


While we were traveling through the cities sharing our knowledge with the children and learning from the experiences, I was able to strengthen my leadership skills and recognise that this time spent with my colleagues from other countries would inspire me to continue working with my community back home.


It is important to say that everything was new and amazing for me and that through each trip the bonds of friendship became stronger and that the people who welcomed us in each place always made me feel at home. They always cared for our well-being and about making us feel comfortable in each place.


Exchanges between a variety of cultures showed me that it doesn't matter if you live in Asia, Europe, America or anywhere in the world: we are all equal and friendship that is forged through the mutual experience of football is memorable for a lifetime. It also allowed me to confirm that leadership makes the heart vibrate, no matter what difficulties you have, if you can dream it, you can do it.


I spent an unforgettable month surrounded by people who gave their very essence to the campaign, I learned to appreciate everything beautiful that life gives us, I learned to be more tolerant and persevering to fulfill my achievements and the most important the campaign inspired me to keep on working for my community.


Some of my best memories are from when I was in Ostrava a city in the north-eastern part of the country, where we were working with a small group of young people and adults who have physical disabilities and mental disorders. They gave me more learnings than I could offer them since they taught me that the beauty of the life is smiling despite the circumstances that life puts us in.


I went back to Colombia full of emotions, encouragement, experiences, but above all with the satisfaction of knowing that union creates force; that a group of young leaders are making a difference through football contributing to the social development of each of our countries. I have always said that football is the best tool to promote community empowerment and make positive changes motivating people to fulfill their dreams. As the motto of my organisation says: ‘As long as football exists, there is hope’ – ‘Mientras quede el futbol, quedan esperanzas.’




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