Soccer in Tanzania
Soccer in Tanzania
By: Jacob Walters, 13 years old, Washington, D.C.

When I traveled with my family to Tanzania last year, my favorite experience was visiting the SOS Children’s Village in Dar es Salaam. The SOS Village was very different from the rest of Tanzania. When you’re in Dar es Salaam, you’re surrounded on every side by packed and loud streets.

Here's what those packed streets looked like.

When you walk into the village, it’s like you’re in a completely removed place. It’s an oasis. It stood out that the village was so well-kept. The families take pride in maintaining the plants and keeping the grass green. It’s inspiring to see the families and the SOS staff making such an effort to keep the village in such good shape.
At the SOS Children's Village in Dar es Salaam.
There are three SOS Villages in Tanzania. The village we visited had over 130 kids in total, in 13 homes, each with one SOS Mother who looks after the children. I don’t think the mothers realize how hard they actually work. Cooking for 10 kids every night is a tough job, but they always seem to maintain their smiles and friendliness.

Asha, SOS Mother, and me.
I went to the SOS Village to meet Eliya, a fourteen-year-old boy whom my family sponsors. Eliya grew up at the SOS Village, and now lives at the SOS youth center with other boys his age. Though he didn’t speak very much English, we were able to communicate pretty well, and I really enjoyed talking to him, in particular about soccer, which we both love!
One thing I quickly learned in Tanzania was how keen everyone is to play soccer. I don’t know much Swahili, but the phrase that helped me the most was “tucheze mpira,” which means, “let’s play football, let’s play soccer.” Whenever I said that phrase, it felt as though millions of people would swarm around me.

Playing soccer at the village.
I had brought a couple of soccer balls with me to the village in the hope that I would be able to make friends and play soccer with the kids. When I brought the soccer balls onto the lawn behind the houses, the kids just seemed to sprout up from the ground. Within fifteen minutes, we were playing soccer and we didn’t stop for two hours. Many of the kids didn’t have proper soccer shoes and many even played barefoot, but they still seemed to love playing. I realized I took so much for granted when I played soccer at home. In Tanzania, they see it as a privilege and seem to truly enjoy it. Back home, if someone were to make a mistake, there would be criticism. When I played in Tanzania, a kid missed an open goal, and I thought the others were going to pick on him. Instead they all laughed with him and supported him. That was great to see.
I would love to go back soon!

Jacob's family sponsors two children through SOS Children's Villages. Child sponsorships provide vulnerable children with loving, stable homes and access to quality healthcare and education. Sponsor a child today.