The players played hard, sweat, smiled, lost and won during Midnight Football’s most recent indoor soccer tournament. The games were intense, but at the start of each game, players shook hands and embraced. For them, their opponents were friends first and competition second.
At the end of the long day of matches, when the winning teams were presented their award, everyone cheered. Players were also recognized for outstanding character and sportsmanship. At the end of the day the real prize was not the trophy of the winning team, it was the character and camaraderie that each player gained. The support and genuine pride each player had for their friends was obvious.
Since its inception, Midnight Football has set out to provide a positive outlet for youth. Through football (soccer) they have instilled important life skills like teamwork, communication, hard work, and sportsmanship. The real showcase during the tournament was the display of these qualities and values.
Coach Okoshi Elijah Finbar commented on the 3rd session’s technical improvement, but noted that most impressive was that the players now have confidence. He said, “They believe in themselves. “ For teens who have been branded, “at risk,” confidence in themselves is a big thing.
Coach Mohamad Ishak bin Kunju Mohamad, commented that winning and losing is just a part of playing football. Important, he said, are the qualities and character skills that players gain when they show up and do their best.
Through competition and sports, these teens are being taught much more than the joys of winning for themselves. They are learning the beauty and fulfillment of investing in each other, working hard and aiming high for not just their personal gain but for team goals.
The third session of Midnight Football has evolved from a group of strangers, to team mates, to friends. As their relationships and characters blossom they show a glimpse of how the world is meant to be one family, no matter what makes us different.