Mayan Families Kids and Teen Sports Club
text and photo by William Lynch
It was the finals for the Mosquito Division championship of the Open Schools Soccer Tournament. A field full of seven-, eight- and nine-year- olds was struggling to take home the City Champs Trophy, a tiny thing perhaps but very important to these kids. The game was chaotic since children at this age can’t kick very far or hard and have only a vague understanding of details like formations or positions; nevertheless, there was a great deal of action.
The Mayan Families Kids and Teen Sports Club’s PAMI School team, a special school for children who have to have regular jobs, like shoe shine boys who help support their families, was ahead throughout the game against the Open Schools team, a group of kids easily as needy as the PAMI kids but who cannot get into the Sports Club because it does not have additional resources.
At the end of play, PAMI won 4 to 2, in perhaps the first victory of any kind these little kids have ever had. They were jumping up and down ecstatic and went off chanting and singing to deliver their trophy to their school principal. The goal that tied down their victory was scored by Ana, a unique little nine-year-old girl who works in the open air market selling vegetables.
In a later meeting with the PAMI faculty, the Sports Club management learned of one unexpected result of its program. PAMI children participating in sports are suddenly showing an improved academic performance. Nobody is skipping classes or turning up late and failing to do homework. The kids know that the Sports Club won´t let them play if they don´t keep up their grades.