Soccer in Atabae

Soccer in Atabae

With the recent Soccer World Cup we have seen again much debate on the relationship between sport, commercialism and mass media. Many of us would like to get back to basics and just enjoy play for its own sake! Ian Gray, at IT professional recently returned from Atabae, Timor Leste, gives his report of such a game where sport is building the confidence and esteem of Timorese youth -helping them engage positively with each other and the world.

Most soccer games in Atabae are played on a Sunday and, as we had done several times before, everyone was gathered at the rendezvous with nervous laughter and butterflies in the tummy. I arrived on time with the ‘troopie’ but the boys from the local soccer team had been assembled for some time prior to me getting there. After making last minute checks to make sure everyone was there, all the boys climbed into the ‘troopie’ and we were off.

This was a discipline that had been developed and talked about by all concerned over several months.
When I first met the boys who were interested in forming a soccer side I was delighted and encouraged that there was so much enthusiasm. It was easy to see that there were a few rough edges to iron out but the important point was that they had made the effort to attend.

This was the setting for one of the most enjoyable times I had experienced in Atabae. I knew in myself that the key to the training sessions and the success of the team was trust, discipline and self belief.

I think the most important of these three goals is trust. If everyone trusts one another then the discipline and self belief will follow suit. Because everyone is different the manner in which trust is developed lies within the individual. I personally liked to include jokes and laughter in training sessions and get reactions that break down the barriers that can so often hinder progress.

Regardless of how one achieves their objectives, sport, whatever code it is, plays a significant part in the development of comradeship.
The disciplines that participants learn from playing sport are immense and play an important role as they shape their lives. People meet people in sport and friendships are formed that can last a lifetime, not only at a local level but also internationally. Responsibilities are developed and timekeeping is honed as the individuals progress through their sporting programs.

And so the boys of Atabae played their Sunday afternoon game and came out victors. As I said to the boys on the day, it’s not whether you win or lose- it’s how you play the game. After the game there were smiles all around and an exchange of pats on the back from both sides. The score did not matter as both teams gained from the human interaction and the bonding that resulted.

And so it was back into the troopie and back to Atabae. There was singing and shouting and plenty of smiles. The boys unbeknown to them, had learned not only to compete in a fair manner but enjoy the interaction of a social encounter.

This is the way it should be done and the only way forward.