If you’re in Morocco and you don’t know how to speak Darija but you can play soccer, trust me you’ll be fine. The number of times that simply having a soccer ball, has thrown me into some super fun times with people is outstanding! Never did I imagine just being able to play a sport would unlock so many opportunities for connection.
I first played soccer in Azrou on the first day of my homestay with my host brother Hicham. We played with a small bouncy ball in his room, juggling and trying to show off our tricks without breaking anything. He was surprisingly very good with a bouncy ball in confined spaces. We were with his friend who didn’t seem to play soccer and would knock something over practically every time it was passed to him. I also struggled to juggle the small ball without running into a lamp or chair.
My first time playing an actual match was also in Morocco with a few kids who were about 10-12 years old. Gabe noticed a few kids playing across the street from where we were at a school. We quickly threw our shoes on and sprinted to find a way in. We asked a man at the entrance if we could come in but he told us no so we left with our heads down. As we were leaving however, he decided it would be ok to let us play for a bit so we quickly ran back inside. We played on the concrete court under the sun, as more kids joined the match every 10 minutes. After playing fairly hard for about 40 minutes we went back inside, sweating heavily and happily fulfilled.
In Kelaat Mgouna, Pablo, Gabe and I decided to buy a ball so as an investment for the rest of the trip. After purchasing the ball, we noticed a large crowd gathered around a snake charmer. We stopped to watch for a while but eventually decided to pass our new ball around since there were too many people to even get a good view of the show. People of all ages slowly began to join our passing circle while occasionally trying to juggle the ball. I looked out from our circle at the snake charmer to notice that we had taken away half of his audience. While I did feel bad, all we had done was pass around a ball.
Another experience in Kelaat Mgouna was when we noticed a full game going down near us with boys our age on a nice concrete court. Pablo, Gabe, and I asked to join and immediately began playing. Gabe and I weren’t wearing any decent shoes so we struggled to keep up and both eventually got frustrated and left. We left unhappy and unfulfilled. Luckily, our thirst to play was quenched the next day when we played in an abandoned area with a kid whilst being watched by the women walking by. A bit awkward but still fun.
More recently, we played a bit in Ait Bougamez. From the first moments of the first day, we brought our soccer ball over to the center of Timid and immediately boys of all ages came to participate in a little juggling circle. Boys who at the moment I did not know, but I would spend a lot more time with over the course of the next two weeks. During the span of my stay in Ait Bougamez, playing soccer with the other boys in the village was something to look forward to all the time. Boys from multiple villages would gather in a grass patch in the middle of some apple fields where there was nothing growing but some grass. With the Atlas Mountains as a view, we played for hours until it was too dark to keep playing. The connections formed at that field were special and brought forth friendships that would not have formed without a ball.
Since Ait Bougamez, we have continued to carry around a soccer ball. We have played it on the beach and passed it around with every free moment.
Playing soccer around Morocco has been one of the highlights of my course. I am grateful for all the opportunities it has offered me to connect with others and have fun!