In addition to walking for exercise, I’ve found a group of guys playing mpira (aka football or soccer) and so I made the daring move to inquire about joining them. They graciously accepted my inquiry and actually seemed a little TOO eager about my participation. Of course, the first day I could play was after a long day of rain so the field was over halfway covered in mud and then I quickly realized why they were so giddy about the mzungu (which literally means “traveler” but now just means “random white person.”) They wanted to see how long it would take for me to wipe out and cover myself with mud. But after an hour of very precautious playing, I succeeded in two ways: I scored a goal and I kept my feet on the ground and my face out of the mud! Just before the game finished our team received a penalty kick and they, again curious to see how I’d do, asked me to kick it. Thank goodness the ball wasn’t surrounded by too much mud but I placed a nice ball towards the upper right 90 and secured another point for our team which ended up winning that day. It was a great way to start my soccer here in Morogoro and since then I have played twice more. The field has actually been quite dry since then but playing is still difficult with such an uneven terrain. Not to mention that they have quite the warm-up before a game. We jog about 4-5 laps around the field then proceed to do agilities and stretching exercises for about 45 mentions then play an hour long game. It doesn’t seem that long but in the blazing heat and after a full day at school, it is quite taxing. [This is me updating this blog a few days later.] I had another chance to play today and ventured out there around 5:30pm. We did the normal warm-ups and activities which quite honestly wear me out before the game even starts. I played the No. 9 spot which is a striker/forward position and actually played quite well (much better than the past 2 times playing). I had a few shots throughout the game and some decent passes then, with just 10 minutes or so to go, our team had a corner. I kept whispering to myself, “knee over the ball! Knee over the ball!” And sure enough the kick is placed into the middle of the crowd and it’s blocked by a defender who headed the ball in my direction towards the top of what I imagine would be the 18. As it floated toward me (it felt like slow motion) I kept saying, “knee over the ball! Knee over the ball!” and after the first bounce I ripped a shot with my left leg through the right side of the goal. It felt great to score an actual goal and even better to score it with my non-dominant foot (thanks Jack for the practice!) But yes, mpira here is very competitive and I’m honored to get to play with these guys. At least I be getting into really good shape with them. And the other great thing about playing soccer here is that I have a fan club of some of my students who came out to watch me play which was wonderful. I feel so welcome here but that’s just how they roll in Tanzania. Well, tis all of my soccer stories for now but I’m sure more are to come!

p.s. The title means, “Can I play soccer with y’all?”

p.s.s. Since almost all of the guys watch European football leagues, they sport the colors of their teams like Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and so on! And also because of watching the European soccer, they use a lot of English soccer lingo on the field which has been beneficial for me.

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