After many phone calls, missed turns, and false alarms, the Chiqui girl's soccer team finally played the Chureca girl's soccer team. Manna Project sponsors a team that practices once a week at the field over at El Salero. The girls who come are mostly from 13.5 and Cedro Galan near El Farito, and bonding those two groups was a main goal of the soccer program. Juntos Contigo, a Nicaraguan non-profit that works in Chureca right next to the clinic, has their own team, coached by our friends Roger and Ruben. Many of the girls on the Chureca team attend our English class and the majority of the Chiqui girls participate in at least one other Manna program.
For the game, the fearless Manna coaches, Kelly and I, recruited Daniel to be the referee, gathered all of our gear (donated uniforms, extra sneakers for girls who don't have them, balls, goalie gloves...) and somehow managed to pick up all of the girls in time for the scheduled 3:30 match. Okay, maybe we were ten minutes late, but thanks to the "hora nica" that counts as being on time.
The two teams had met three times before, twice in Chiqui and once in Chureca, and the home team won each game, so I expected our away game to be challenging. The Chureca "field" is really more of a bumpy dirt pit--there isn't a single blade of grass in sight. I wasn't just nervous about the field though, or even the dubious skills of our players. I'd spoken to girls on both sides who regaled me with stories of how dirty the opposing team played. They even told me that two of the girls, ironically each being one of the most timid on their respective teams, got into a physical fight that Michael had to separate. Some even pronounced that they would skip the game because they were afraid, although their incessant questioning about the time and date of the game tipped me off that their assertions were merely idle threats. For two weeks before the game, every time I saw the girls either in Chureca or around the community, I emphasized that the match was strictly friendly and that I expected them to play cleanly with absolutely no fighting. In addition, I read the rules (no fighting, support your teammates, respect the referee and coaches) to the team in the micro on the ride over to Chureca.