Apply to Join

Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua

by Soccer Without Borders
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Playing (Soccer) For Change in Nicaragua
Teams parade together to FSF
Teams parade together to FSF's fields

To celebrate the 2017 International Day of Peace, the Fútbol Sin Fronteras Granada community hosted its 9th annual Copa de la Paz (Peace Cup), the only all-girls soccer tournament in Nicaragua. The 2017 tournament was the largest to date; 18 soccer teams competed in games across 2 weekends and multiple age brackets bringing more than 700 players and fans together to celebrate the International Day of Peace.

Katie Pettit, FSF Granada’s Team Leader, recaps all of the excitement for us here....

Our core values at Fútbol Sin Fronteras include sportsmanship, team-building, and respect for all women in the game. As part of this mission, we recently hosted our annual Copa de la Paz, an all-girls tournament celebrating the International Day of Peace. Copa de la Paz is no ordinary tournament. In addition to being the only all-girl’s tournament in Nicaragua, the Peace Cup also includes a team award for positivity, respect, and dedication. There is so much that can be highlighted from the 2017 Copa de la Paz, however four themes especially stuck out this year: anticipation, collaboration, passion, and pride.

Anticipation. Simply put, Copa de la Paz is a big deal. In the 2 months leading up the tournament, we were training for Copa de la Paz at every practice with physical drills and scrimmages, as well as discussing the meaning and values of peace. We watched photos and videos from previous years, screaming with laughter at funny pictures and appreciating the memories created. When the day of this year’s tournament finally arrived, the feeling was electric. Girls bounced up and down with pre-game excitement and nerves, anxiously awaiting the sound of that first whistle blowing.

Collaboration. Copa de la Paz is a group effort, and not just on the day of the tournament. A lot of logistical planning goes into the event from both FSF coaches and coaches of the participating teams joining us from Granada and nearby cities. Leading up to the tournament, Fútbol Sin Fronteras coaches worked with professors from local primary and secondary schools, as they helped organize teams to represent each school. Copa de la Paz provides an excellent opportunity to grow FSF’s network and build a support system for women’s soccer in Granada and nearby communities. NicaFútb Feminino, a local organization that covers and promotes the women’s game in Nicaragua, was even there to livestream our event on Facebook. In the past 3 years, Copa de la Paz has expanded to include numerous teams as the tournament’s reputation has grownThis year we had more than 18 teams participate, totalling more than 700 people who either played or attended 1 of the 2 days of the tournament!

The event itself brought out a shared sense of purpose and accomplishment between players, coaches, referees, parents, friends, and onlookers. Everyone was out at the fields, under the blazing sun, to support women’s soccer and equality in Nicaragua, and to have fun playing the sport we all love. Hands were shaken before games, fellow teammates were encouraged, players gave hands to help lift one another after a foul, and high fives were abundant. In the following awards ceremony, all teams supported and cheered for each other.

Passion. Tears of joy after a late second-half goal in a championship game. Shocked screams rang out as a penalty hit the crossbar. There were even a few tears of frustration after an early round loss. The girls love the competition, their teammates, the game—all of it.

Pride. There was an overwhelming sense of pride throughout the day, starting with our parade at 8:00am. We blasted inspirational music and teams cheered as they marched through the streets of Granada to the tournaments’ fields. Proud mothers and fathers took videos throughout the entire day, hoping to catch the eye of their focused daughter. Girls wore their sweaty jerseys, grass marks, and occasional bruises with pride as we walked back together, exhausted, from the fields. In the weeks following Copa de la Paz, our players have re-lived the event, with countless “remember whens” and “did you sees."  

Each year, Copa de la Paz is a special opportunity for FSF to expand our reach and bring together multiple teams to support and celebrate women’s soccer in Nicaragua. It is safe to say that many more special memories were created this past year, and we are already looking forward to the next Copa de la Paz! When reflecting on this year’s tournament, Pancha, an FSF Senior player, and César, our program’s Co-Director had much to share:

“Copa de paz significa para mi, tiene cuatro puntos principales. Son respecto, puntualidad, la espiritua de paz, y compañerismo. Eso nos ayuda ser mejor personas cada día, y mejorando tanto personales y como fútbolistas. ”(The Copa de Paz has four main principles to me. They are respect, punctuality, a spirit of peace, and companionship. That helps us to be better people each day, and to improve both as people and soccer players.)
           —Pancha, FSF Senior Player

“Para nosotros, celebrar Copa de Paz significa como un sentimiento de oportunidad, alegría, diversión, amistad, tolerancia, compañerismo. Disfrutar y compartir con diferentes escuelas, chicas, y personas de nuestra comunidad es cada día más satisfactorio, pienso que nuestro trabajo cada día da frutos, ver a niñas de 6 años jugando este deporte (fútbol) es tan hermoso y emotivo, ver a sus padres como entrenadores está rompiendo las barreras del pensamiento, ver el apoyo de la comunidad significa mucho para nosotros, puedo decir que ahora Granada es la Capital del Fútbol Femenino en Nicaragua.” ("For us, to celebrate Peace Cup means opportunity, joy, fun, friendship, tolerance, fellowship. To enjoy and to share with different schools, girls, and people of our community is every day more satisfactory; I think that our work every day bears fruits, to see girls of 6 years playing this sport (soccer) is so beautiful and emotive, to see their parents as coaches are breaking the barriers of thinking, seeing the support of the community means a lot to us. I can say that now Granada is the Capital of Women's Soccer in Nicaragua.)
          —César, FSF Co-Director

Junior division game-day action
Junior division game-day action
Cesar & FSF Senior players welcome teams
Cesar & FSF Senior players welcome teams
FSF Junior Teams 1 & 2
FSF Junior Teams 1 & 2
Teams take the field for the championship match
Teams take the field for the championship match
Players chat with Coach Lizbeth before the parade
Players chat with Coach Lizbeth before the parade
Post-tournament photo of Senior Division teams
Post-tournament photo of Senior Division teams

Links:

Todos pueden jugar
Todos pueden jugar

A key element to Soccer Without Borders’ programming is using soccer to bridge cultural differences, opening up a space for cross-cultural connection. As we prepare to host a group of 15 visiting high school students from the U.S. next week at our program in Nicaragua, we’ve reflected upon our most recent experience from hosting another group: The University of Illinois Women’s Soccer Team.

This Spring, the University of Illinois Women’s Soccer Team joined the Nicaraguan Women’s National Team (FENIFUT) and Fútbol Sin Fronteras—Granada (FSF) in a 10 day, 2 city event focused on promoting and expanding opportunities for women and girls playing soccer at all levels of the game. The University of Illinois stepped into a big month for FSF and the National Team. With the second season of FSF Granada’s secondary-school league in full swing, known locally as La Liga Escolar, and the National Team’s preparations for the upcoming Central American Cup, both groups were gearing up to compete in their respective tournaments.

As first-time visitors to Nicaragua, the University of Illinois players and coaches, were thrown into a number of new experiences, from getting to know the culture and country of Nicaragua, to assisting the FSF staff in delivering our daily youth programming, to training alongside and competing against the Nicaraguan Women’s Team in preparation for each other’s coming seasons. Throughout the week, the efforts of each group targeted all tiers of the game; coaching girls ages 6-18 in Granada, many of whom are playing on their first team, as well as sharing knowledge and practice methods through joint sessions with the national team in Managua.

The week kicked off with 3 days in Granada, where the University of Illinois players got to know our FSF community through daily after school practices and team-building activities, as well as visiting local school gym classes, introducing the game to more girls. From there, the team journeyed to Nicaragua’s capital city of Managua for two international friendlies. Between these showcase matches, the teams practiced jointly, inviting local club and premier league coaches to observe.

To wrap up the week, the team returned to Granada to rejoin daily programming with FSF teams, taking time to reflect on the experiences of being an elite athlete in the US compared to the experience of their national team peers in Nicaragua. In a role reversal, the Illinois players changed from players to spectators, cheering on the FSF girls during the playoffs and finals of La Liga Escolar in Granada. When asked about their experiences, FSF’s Program Director Veronica Balladares and Illinois’ Katie Murray had this to share:

"Illinois transmite el sentimiento de Familia sobresaliendo los valores e integración a la familia." ("Illinois conveys the feeling of Family by standing out in values and integration into our familia.")
     - Veronica Balladares, Co-Director of FSF Granada

"Nicaragua was an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hearts were touched, friends were made, and new perspectives were obtained, all while sharing our love for soccer."
     - Katie Murray, University of Illinois Women's Soccer

National Team & Illinois joint training session
National Team & Illinois joint training session
FSF & Illinois warm up at soccer practice
FSF & Illinois warm up at soccer practice
FSF & Illinois teams and coaches
FSF & Illinois teams and coaches
U-20 National Team & Illinois post game
U-20 National Team & Illinois post game

Links:

Computer time
Computer time

Now in its fourth year running, our Soccer Without Borders Education Program continues to progress and grow. The FSF (Fútbol Sin Fronteras, or Soccer Without Borders in Spanish) Education program encourages girls to invest in their education by providing an all-around support system that offers daily study hours, tutoring, computer access, and scholarships for school fees and/or school supplies and uniforms.

According to UNICEF, when looking at the educational statistics across Nicaragua:

  • The primary school enrollment is 95%, but just 56% of these students will move on from primary school.  
  • The secondary school enrollment is just 49%, and of these only 47% attend regularly.

It is in this context that the FSF Education Program was created, to build a different narrative for and with the girls in our program. As the 2017 school year has just recently begun, we are thrilled to announce that the academic pass rate for our program participants in 2016 was 97%, the highest it has ever been. If we look even closer, those participants in secondary school- the most at-risk statistically- maintained a 96% academic pass rate, up from 86% last year. We continue to see uncommon outcomes among our participants, a tribute to their hard work and perseverance, and the investment that our staff mentors, coaches, and tutors have made in addressing the barriers at each stage.

Although we are proud of this restult, we continue to seek ways to improve the program, ensuring that we are reaching as many girls as could benefit from this opportunity, that our current participants are getting the most out of their education, and that they are prepared for life after secondary school. With this in mind, we are proud to announce that in 2017 we have expanded our scholarships to not only secondary school students, but primary school students as well, offering school supplies and uniforms to those who qualify. In addition, we awarded our first-ever university scholarship to Hasly P.- an 8 year veteran of the program and 2016 graduate. Hasly is now pursuing an engineering degree at a University in the capital city of Managua.

Thank you for your continued support of Soccer Without Borders in Nicaragua, and our goals on and off the field!

Hasly- University scholarship recipient
Hasly- University scholarship recipient

Links:

Hello everyone! My name is Zoe Jackson-Gibson and I am the year-long Team Leader for the Soccer Without Borders Granada, Nicaragua location. What exactly does being a Team Leader consist of? From term to term this can vary based upon the needs of the program. But right now I help to conduct the daily activities between our seven teams, I make school visits and introduce the other girls to our program, and I tutor English!

I cannot believe I am about to say this, but I have been a part of this program for roughly five months now and have loved every second of it. When I look back at the time spent here, I could not be more grateful for everything that I have experienced. From the smiles and laughs I’ve shared with the girls and my fellow coaches, to the overall generosity of the Granada community, living in Nicaragua has been such a moving and enlightening experience. I know I’ll carry all of these memories with me well after my time with SWB Granada is over.

I already know one of my favorite moments will be the time we hosted T.E.A.M Camp in the beginning of January. For this camp, we invite those who are 18 years of age or older to volunteer with us as coaches for a week and assist in facilitating activities on and off the field for our girls.

Before the camp started, I was so excited to show our visitors what I have experienced here and how much I loved the program. But as time went on, I discovered that everyone’s experience of Granada is different and that was very eye-opening. With only a handful of the visitors able to speak Spanish, we came together and learned how the power of sport can carry you through what seemed to be nearly impossible tasks. And with that followed, the first juggling circle being made, the first smile being cracked, and the first bag of mangos shared. Instantaneous connections were made among the 17 campers, the SWB Granada Staff, and our girls, which will always hold a special place in our hearts. What this camp now represents to me is what great effect a small group of committed and thoughtful individuals can do when they come together to make a change.

I have now hit my mid-way mark with five more months left as a Team Leader and I am more than ecstatic to see what else my future holds, especially as these relationships continue to grow.

Much love from Nica,

Zoe

FSF players compete in the league championship
FSF players compete in the league championship

In February 2008, we held our first practice on a dirt field next to the chicken factory in Granada, Nicaragua. A herd of goats lazily wandered through, and the fact that the town’s water had gone out coupled with the blazing heat made us wonder who would come. Cora would be one of them.

Cora lived just on the other side of the field in a house with 13 other people. Raised by her extended family after her mother passed away, Cora spent her days as one of many mouths to feed; soccer with the neighborhood boys was her outlet, the nearby field her escape. That day, she wandered across the glass-covered dirt field in her flip-flops, kicking them off immediately to juggle with us. I passed her a pair of sneakers, more for my own peace of mind than hers.

From that very first practice, it became clear that Cora’s talent at the age of 15 far exceeded this backyard dirt field. Under the banner of a young Soccer Without Borders, we were not there to identify and develop talent. We were there to work with community leaders to build a safe space for all girls to learn and grow, on the field and off. While discovering Granada’s first superstar was not on our agenda, here she was. And so our relationship with Cora began.

In the coming months, we created the city’s first girls-specific after-school program. The program grew quickly to meet the need and demand, adding off-field educational activities and an earned equipment system. Cora’s potential was top of mind with every decision.

A year later, our hopes for Cora were realized: she was selected for the U-20 Nicaraguan Women’s National team. Equipment support and a handful of coaching hours were no longer enough. She needed bus fare to and from the capital daily, and a hearty lunch before practice. She needed soap and detergent to accommodate the extra dirty clothes, and a tutor to help her balance her studies with the additional demands on her time. Most importantly, she needed someone to convince her family that this was a worthy use of her time, knowing that her absence at home meant that everyone else would carry a larger burden.

Nevertheless, we pressed on, devoting at times more than a third of our limited human and financial resources to Cora. A volunteer rode the bus with her to Managua most days. Another met weekly with her school director. We were all on call for her family, who began to steal Cora’s bus fare on days she was scheduled to travel solo. In the face of such need, using the money for sports was viewed as selfish; it had to be shared like everything else.

There were good days and bad days. One evening, Cora fainted. We scooped her up and taxied to the free hospital. She wandered out an hour later with a torn scrap of paper in her hand with a single number on it. “This is my sugar level,” she explained.

That day began a series of futile doctor’s visits and more scraps of paper, eventually leading to the worry that she shouldn’t be playing soccer. But Cora was slated to travel with the national team for the first time, her first international travel. Her appearance for her country sent a ripple of pride through the program, and renewed our sense of purpose and commitment to helping Cora reach her potential. She returned home from the trip confident and proud, but also distant. She had changed.

Cora began skipping school and practice, mysteriously disappearing for days at a time. We met with the school counselor weekly, and walked her to school in the morning. It wasn’t enough. The level of psychological and emotional support she needed was beyond our capacity.

I knew that there would be tough decisions on how to allocate limited resources in human service work. What I didn’t expect was how emotional that decision could become as you weigh the needs of the real people behind it, and grapple with your ability to meet those needs. How do you choose one over another? How do you know when to let go? No matter what we tried, we couldn’t bring Cora back into the fold.

I visit Cora, and now her son, every time I am in Granada. We reminisce about her trip to El Salvador and the first day we met at that dirt field. She encourages all of the young girls in her neighborhood to join the program. She never asks for a thing, though I know she misses having a pair of cleats to call her own. I think about the program as it is today: year-round, safe and private facilities, a school uniform and scholarship program, a trained psychologist director, full-time coaches, close-knit teams, and family engagement. I wonder if now it would be enough.

I could not be prouder of the girls in our program today, and the coaches who support them. These girls and coaches are truly “rompiendo fronteras” — breaking boundaries — every day. They overcome obstacles so great that worrying about a bare foot on a glass-covered field seems silly. Yet while success keeps us pressing forward, it’s failure, the girls we couldn’t reach, the girls we couldn’t keep, the Cora’s, who inspire us to dig deeper, reflect harder, and never aim for anything less than our full potential.

Copa de la Paz 2016
Copa de la Paz 2016
FSF players celebrate Women
FSF players celebrate Women's Football Day

Links:

 

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Soccer Without Borders

Location: Cambridge, MA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Mary McVeigh
Cambridge, MA United States
$65,643 raised of $75,000 goal
 
2,184 donations
$9,357 to go
Donate Now
lock
Donating through GlobalGiving is safe, secure, and easy with many payment options to choose from. View other ways to donate

Soccer Without Borders has earned this recognition on GlobalGiving:
Add Project to Favorites

Help raise money!

Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.

Start a Fundraiser

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.