Jun 10, 2010
LOCAL CHAMPIONS GO TO SOUTH AFRICA!
“Germany” beat “Cameroon” in a fiercely contested final at the Chiawa Mini-World Cup Tournament held at the end of May. No quarter was given, nor asked! Why the intense competition? The PRIZE was a big one!…An all expenses paid trip for 5 young village men to attend the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa!
For two days 160 local players battled in sweltering heat on the dusty pitches of Chiawa Village in the Lower Zambezi. Many contestants played barefoot yet this did not diminish their striking skills, agility or speed. 16 teams made up from villages throughout the Chiawa Chiefdom participated in 32 games for the honor of being crowned champion of the “SPIRIT OF THE CUP 2010” tournament. The games were attended by over 400 Chiawa residents. Explore Africa Zambia and private donors from the USA partnered with Zambia’s premier airline, Zambezi Airlines, South Africa’s Courtyard Hotels and local sponsors to bring the Spirit of the Cup to Chiawa. The sponsors made it possible for 4 village footballers plus a local chaperone to attend Africa’s first World Cup.
Richard Wilson, Scottish Co-Director of EXPLORE Africa Zambia and lifelong devoted football fan, will accompany these 5 lucky villagers to the Cup. Richard and his wife Cherri Briggs own a private home in Chiawa’s GMA where they operate their African travel marketing business when not in the US. Through their American company, “EXPLORE Inc”, they have been bringing American tourists to Zambia for 15 years. Over the last few years they have become increasingly dedicated to helping the people of Chiawa and other remote parts of Zambia improve their lives. They have participated in many community projects, working closely with Her Royal Highness Chieftainess Chiyaba and other Zambian leaders. When asked where the vision for the “Spirit of the Cup” tournament came from, Wilson said, “I was born in Scotland and football is in my blood. I have been kicking a ball around for almost 50 years, since I first learned to walk. The best memories of my youth were playing on the local pitches of Africa where I grew up. I know what football means to the local guys and wanted to give them a chance to be part of Africa’s first World Cup. Football is the world’s biggest sport and brings people from all walks of life together on a ‘level playing field’ to enjoy the greatest past time ever: playing or watching soccer. On the pitch everyone is equal and anyone can win.”
The tournament was based on the same format as the FIFA World Cup except the number of teams was reduced to 16. It was played as a 6-a-side tournament. Four groups were formed with four teams per group. Each team had 9 players and 1 manager. The playing pitch was halved and games were 20 minutes long. If at the end of the game the scores were level a penalty shoot out was incurred with 3 players from each team taking penalties. If scores were still level after the shoot out a sudden death penalty shoot out ensued. At the start of the tournament every team drew a name from a hat containing the names of 16 of the countries participating in the FIFA 2010 World Cup. Thereafter the teams played in the tournament representing one of the great international teams. By a stroke of fate, EXPLORE Africa Zambia’s team drew USA! Kits were provided by the sponsors indicating the country they were representing. Each team was also given official FIFA 2010 balls sent from SA. The goalposts were provided by nearby Kanyemba Lodge and all equipment was flown down to the event free of charge by Proflight air charters. Cee Cee Freight cleared the goods at no cost for their efforts.
According to Wilson, on the first day of the games expectations were high. The teams battled it out to qualify for the top two places of their respective groups. Once the they realized what it would take to progress further the level of competition became more and more intense. Skills were top notch! Wilson, a former coach, said the local players exhibited world class ability on basic, grassless pitches strewn with thorns. Despite sore feet and high temperatures, the players showed incredible endurance, playing throughout the day with few breaks and little refreshment. Sadly, as is the case of all tournaments, not all can qualify. By midday on Sunday the quarter finalists were known. Cameroon was up against Ghana, Germany against Italy, Spain against Argentina and surprisingly, USA against Brazil. The first two quarterfinals to be played were Cameroon against Ghana and Germany against Italy. Both games were fiercely contested with Cameroon and Germany narrowly beating their opposition by one goal to nil. The next two quarterfinals were just as competitive with Spain up against Argentina and the USA playing Brazil. Spain totally outclassed their opposition with 7 goals to 1 but the upstarts of the tournament, the USA, beat the mighty Brazil 3-2 in an exhilarating penalty shootout and moved onto the Semi’s. The Germany vs Spain semi-final was a classic. Both of these teams were undoubtedly the stars of the tournament so it was no surprise that this game ended in a nil – nil draw, and the dreaded penalty shootout loomed. However, German nerve remained strong and they narrowly beat Spain 3 goals to 2 in a wildly exhilarating shootout. The other semi-final was also evenly contested but eventually the USA succumbed to a 1- nil defeat against the mighty Cameroonians. The final was still to come but not before the big prizes were drawn as both teams needed a well earned rest before the final game.
The draw format for the coveted prizes was decided upon by all team captains as follows: everyone who played and all managers could potentially win the prize. Once the two finalist teams were proven, one name from each of the two teams competing in the final would be drawn, and the two winners would go to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. A third ticket was to be randomly drawn from the other 14 teams participating in the tournament who did not reach the final.
The tension was unimaginable as the draw took place, with hundreds of onlookers pressing in and players visibly praying that they might be the one to draw a winning ticket. Cameroon drew the first ticket….and the winner was chosen! Then Germany drew and a winner was declared from that side. The random team’s player was to be decided by an initial draw of the remaining countries who had not reached the finals. “France” was drawn as the country team eligible for the wild card draw. Another young man from this team drew the lucky ticket. All three young winners were visibly stunned to find they had actually won! (Identities to be revealed at the celebration event in Lusaka June 16th!) After the three tickets were drawn the crowd went wild. Three young men had just won the trip of a lifetime!
The day ended with the final, Germany v Cameroon, an absorbing match played at a fierce tempo but the Germans were just too strong and defeated Cameroon by 2 – nil. All members of the German team received genuine FIFA kit bags as prizes and the players for Cameroon received genuine World Cup T-shirts. The jubilation and celebration by the German and Cameroon supporters was frenzied and a sight to behold. A fantastic tournament had just ended in a small remote village in Africa. Once again football was the winner, and all those that participated made their way back to their respective villages, singing and blowing their Vuvuzelus all the way. Chiawa had never been in higher spirits.
The winners will be flown to South Africa by Zambezi Airlines with EXPLORE Africa sponsor Richard Wilson and the group will be hosted by the lovely Courtyard Hotel at Bruma Lake in Johannesburg. Upon arrival they will be whisked away to the FIFA Soccer Village. Here they will begin to feel what it is like to be part of the greatest event on the planet. The next day they are off to watch Slovenia v USA at Ellis Park in Johannesburg and the following day they see Cameroon play Denmark at Loftus in Pretoria. They then return to Zambia to relish memories and tell their stories.
When asked, EXPLORE Africa’s Richard Wilson said, “Aside from the great skill and enthusiasm of the players, the great moment in this draw was the camaraderie, complete lack of selfishness and true sportsmanship portrayed by fellow team members when one of their fellow players drew the winning ticket to go the Cup. Even though their teammates knew it meant that they would not be going themselves, they were ecstatic for their fellow player’s good fortune. The winners were carried on the shoulders of their team mates who sang and cheered for them. At EXPLORE Africa’s request, Don Mc Donald, Managing Director of Zambezi Airlines (another Scottish football fanatic…) enthusiastically dedicated yet another ticket to South Africa which will go to the “Player of the Tournament.” Upon hearing the results of the tournament Mc Donald said, “When I saw the photos I realized how important this was to the guys and thought, why not take just one more? Zambezi Airlines fully supports local community and we see football as one way to instill the spirit of competition and success in young sportsmen. We are delighted to be a part of this tournament.” Wilson and his co-organizers will announce the winner of this ticket on Sunday at the first match of the annual football league in Chiawa. Wilson said, “We all know who this should go to. It was clear from the outset. Not only was this young lad an inspiration to his players and all others throughout the tournament, but he showed true leadership in every sense of the word. At the moment he is still unaware that this award is coming his way….on Sunday he is in for a big surprise and I am very glad he can join us at the Cup.” Stay tuned to this newspaper to see the photos of the winners…
An added bonus from this event has been the generous donation by EXPLORE Africa, Zambia and Multichoice / DSTV to supply 3 decoders and satellite dishes and 1 television to 3 schools in the area. This fantastic gift will allow residents of Chiawa to enjoy all the World Cup games live while also allowing these schools access to educational programs after the event for the children.
EXPLORE Africa Zambia asked that we send their sincere thanks to Her Royal Highness Chieftainess Chiyaba for supporting this event, to the sponsors, and to the Chiawa residents who embraced “The Spirit of the Cup” with so much enthusiasm and played in the spirit it was intended. Special thanks goes to Francis Habasune, headmaster of Chiawa Basic School, Bishop Siabwanta, Deputy Headmaster Chitende High, Charles Chiyama of the Chiawa Clinic and Isaiah Museto for his organization of the teams.