Importance of play for kids, in their words
by Emily Hopcian, storytelling & content manager
Kids were born to play; we were all born to play. During a recent visit with One World Play Project partner Grassroot Soccer (GRS) in Khayelitsha, a township near Cape Town, South Africa, I witnessed the truth of this statement—and the magnetic and joyous power of play—the moment I arrived.
Even before Grassroot Soccer’s afternoon programming had officially begun, a group of kids had gathered on the field and the spaces surrounding it and were playing, simply playing. They were running around, smiling, laughing, doing what kids do.
Later that afternoon, I got to sit down with some of the inspiring, and silly, youth GRS works with in Khayelitsha, hear part of their stories and learn what they love most about play.
“When I play, I feel like I’m a star.” — Sheila, 13
(on the left with teammates Anita & Tina)
Favorite team: RV United (my team)
Favorite football [soccer] player: all my teammates
Favorite thing about playing football [soccer]: My favorite thing about playing football is that it keeps me away from doing all the bad things—like smoking, getting pregnant and all of that.
How do you feel when you play? When I play, I feel like I’m a star.
What does play mean to you? I think playing is having fun, doing what you enjoy most.
How has football [soccer] helped you? Football has given me more opportunities. Before I played football, I couldn’t play football at school, but now, I also play for the team at school.
“Football has helped me a lot.” — Solomon, 16
Favorite team: Orlando Pirates
Favorite football player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Favorite thing about playing football: I like to play goalkeeper.
How do you feel when you play? When I play football, I’m feeling comfortable—and I’m feeling like I’m with my family.
What does football mean to you? Football it means a lot to me because it helps with everything—like community programs and gangsterism and crime. It helps me a lot. And when I’m playing soccer, I know I must go to my home and finish my schoolwork.
“We want to show them we [girls] can also play.” — Tina, 12
Favorite team: Barcelona
Favorite football player: Messi
Who taught you to play soccer? When I came here, actually, they taught me how to play soccer. But I came here already playing soccer. People are not expecting girls to play soccer, but we [me and my team] want to show them that we can also play soccer.
Favorite thing about playing football: My favorite thing is that football was the one thing that you can also do to let people enjoy what you’re doing. You learn something out of football.
What does football mean to you? What I love most of playing is that you get to experience what other people are seeing on the bigger teams. You get involved with the other teams. That’s what I love most.
How has soccer helped you? It has helped me in school because there are some different times when you have to play soccer in life skills. You can’t say no to the teachers because it’s part of your marks.
“Soccer helps me to forget everything.” — Avuyile, 12
Favorite team: Real Madrid
Favorite football player: Ronaldo.
Favorite thing about playing football: I like to play football because it keeps me out of gangsterism.
How do you feel when you play? When I play, I feel so calm and happy.
How has soccer helped you? Soccer helps me to forget everything, and it keeps me looking at my books.
“Play means to me that I can be better.” — Anita, 11
Favorite team: Orlando Pirates
How do you feel when you play? I feel happy because it helps me with my asthma problem.
What does play mean to you? Play means to me that I can be better with playing soccer.
How did you join Grassroot Soccer? My friend took me here to watch them play soccer, and I wanted to play with them.
Donate balls to organizations like Grassroot Soccer today
For organizations like Grassroot Soccer, One World Futbols are an invaluable and often much-needed resource. You can donate these ultra-durable soccer balls to organizations like GRS today.
Photos: Gideon Heller, Dariyal Photography