We often hear it said that football unites the world, and one Dubai school was lucky enough to experience that first-hand when they took on their local counterparts during a trip to Tanzania.
Ten Hartland International students from Years 7-9, along with PE teacher Katie James and Humanities teacher Mr Buse, made the journey to Africa, where they camped for seven days in a town called Moshi in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro.
During their visit they spent three days mixing cement, flattening the ground and moving rocks as part of a project to create a drainage system for the local school, Mbokomu.
Katie James explained why this was so important: “Previously, water from the outside tap was spilling out onto the floor and football field, children had been falling over and some even breaking limbs because the ground was so wet.”
And on day four, after plenty of hard work, the Hartland students were ready to pass the reins over to the pupils of Mbokomu School.
As part of the handover, a football match was arranged between the two schools and, as James revealed, it even caught the imagination of students who typically aren’t interested in football:
“The game was excellent,” she said. “Secondary students who I know don’t often put themselves forward to get involved in sport were excited and wanted to be a part of the team.
“We played 11-a-side, so all our students played plus one of the teachers.
“We had a captain who was a Year 8 boy, he decided our positions and shook hands with the captain from the other school at the start.
“The game was played in very good spirits; there was no referee, but this was not needed, and all decisions were agreed upon.
“It was a competitive game, but sportsmanship was shown throughout.
“The score ended 4-0 to the Hartland team – we’d been informed earlier that no other visiting school had beaten the home side.”
For the Dubai pupils, the Tanzanian pitch was certainly a culture shock, but as James explained, when it came time to play, the students from both schools were immediately able to bond over the beautiful game.
She said: “Initially our students were shocked at the pitch when we visited the school, but they didn’t moan about the fact there were rocks for goals, a lack of visible lines or an un-even surface – they just wanted to play.
“Both teams could greet each other in English and Swahili, but all other communication was through expressions and pointing.
“The lack of verbal communication did not interrupt the game or make it harder to play; football is played all over the world and all players on the pitch knew the rules without them needing to be explained.
“All players could interact with each other and have a positive experience without needing to speak.”
Overall, it proved to be a very worthwhile trip for both the Hartland students and the Tanzanian students, with both sets of pupils taking a lot from their experiences with each other.
“The response from the students of Hartland was one of admiration,” said James. “They admired how happy these students were even with the lack of resources they have – it made our students appreciate what they have even more.
“The Tanzanian students very much enjoyed the football and asked their teacher if we could come back and play again the following day!”