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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bancroft Elementary School students learn skills, build friendships with Libyan National Futsal team

Written by Brady Smithsund
Communications Intern


In an effort to build lasting, impactful relations with other nations, the U.S. Department of State started a program called Sports Diplomacy. The aim is to involve young people from countries like Libya and Costa Rica in soccer by teaching leadership, teamwork and communication skills. Sports Diplomacy also strives to increase dialogue and cultural understanding on a global scale.

Last week, the Libyan National Futsal team came to the United States to tour all over the East Coast. I got the opportunity to spend an afternoon with them and DC SCORES students at Bancroft Elementary School in Mount Pleasant neighborhood, where I witnessed diplomacy in action and friendships being made.

(Earlier in the day, the team visited the DC SCORES office, took a tour, and learned about the impact of the program’s Arts/Athletics/Academics model.)

“We are here today to play with the kids,” said Mohammed, the coach from Libya, while standing on Bancroft’s small turf field. “We are here to train with them.”

And train they did. For over an hour, the players from the Libyan Futsal team scrimmaged with the elementary schoolers.

After starting off with customary warm-ups, the kids and Libyans made a big circle and started passing the ball around. This lasted about 15 minutes; then it was time to play. The kids were all excited about the chance to play with such great players, as the Libyans demonstrated various ball tricks for them. I watched the kids let out gasps of excitement as one of the Libyan players flicked the ball over his head and hit it toward goal, scoring easily.

The kids and Libyans then took the field together -- 50 players crammed onto the small surface to play a game kind of like “sharks and minnows.” The kids from Bancroft, all wearing DC SCORES shirts, dribbled the ball around in a box on one half of the field. The Libyans came in and played defense, letting the kids juke around them and beat them, laughing and enjoying themselves all the while.

After the game, everyone gathered together to debrief, talk about how they played, what was successful and what they could have done better. Taking pictures, high-fiving and hugging,you could have mistaken everyone for long-time friends or family members.

After 14 days of traveling and visiting various institutions all over the East Coast, the Libyans felt DC SCORES was a good end to their trip.

“I think this [DC SCORES] is a great organization to solve all the problems for the kids who can’t get involved,” Mohammed said. “This is a great organization.”

Mohammed wants to implement a program like DC SCORES in his home country.

“After the revolution, we had a lot of problems with the kids,” he said, “so we need to do something like this. Something big.”

I have no doubt in my mind they can do it.

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