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Penn State women’s soccer has officially set out on its nine-day international trip to Nicaragua. During their stay, the Nittany Lions will be working with Soccer Without Borders, training with the Nicaraguan U-17 Women’s National Team and playing a friendly against the full Nicaraguan Women’s National Team. It’s a full immersion trip that will highlight sites around Granada and Managua while embracing the Nicaraguan culture and sharing the game we love!
March 8, 2018
By Kerry Abello
From staying in the homes of Nicaraguan families, to competing alongside many of the young girls in Soccer Without Borders on the soccer field, our time in Granada has been a memorable one.
On our very first day here, each of us walked into a home that belonged to a family who spoke little to no English, yet welcomed us with a smile and open arms. We’ve learned from living with them over the past couple of days that the people in Nicaragua have a very simple lifestyle, and often look for joy in things beyond material possessions, especially in people.
The young kids who live in our neighborhood came running up to us with no hesitation upon our arrival, and then proceeded to rattle of Spanish that none of us could understand. We were so impressed by their complete openness to people who don’t look or sound like them – they didn’t care, they just wanted us to play with them.
Later on while in Granada, we had multiple opportunities to meet, interact with, and play soccer with many of the coaches, volunteers, and participants in Soccer Without Borders. One of the most memorable of these opportunities was our 6v6 soccer tournament. On Monday, we, along with many girls ages 13 to 18, split up into six teams for our tournament.
The girls showed up in a variety of apparel, some with jerseys, shin guards, and cleats, and others in jeans and school shoes. The field we played on was more dirt than grass, and every time you passed the ball, a cloud of dust would encompass anyone in its path. Yet, our little 6v6 tournament was one of the most energized and fun competitions I have ever been a part of.
One girl on my team, Rosa, was only 13 years old and liked to play forward. She must have missed five wide-open chances in front of the goal, but on her sixth, she scored. And I promise you, it was like she just scored the game-winner in the world cup final. These girls don’t show up to this dirt field, possibly far away from their house, in their school shoes, because they have to. Because they don’t have to play soccer, they get to play soccer, and they are so grateful for that. They simply play because they enjoy it, and enjoy each other, and it doesn’t get more complicated than that.
On my way back from the field one day, I spoke with a girl my age named Malida. Malida is in her second year of college and is studying to be a nurse. She walks about 30-40 minutes right after class some days just to play soccer with the other girls in SWB. Soccer, and the community that surrounds it, has empowered her, supported her, and helped her towards a brighter future.
One of my biggest takeaways from Granada is “intenta todo,” or “try everything,” one of the four pillars of SWB. Whether it be vulnerability in trying new activities, meeting new people, or starting new conversations, try it all.
These young girls have showed me that even growing up with virtually nothing, they can still relentlessly find joy in each other, if they just look for it. They’ve taught me the power of a conversation, even with using very few words due to my limited Spanish vocabulary.
Overall, the people I’ve met in Granada have taught me to live simply, be grateful always, and to value those around me just a little bit more; lessons I hope to take with me wherever I go, and with whomever I meet.