Playing With the Locals: Can Soccer help you Travel More Sustainably?

Senda Athletics founder Santiago Halty recounts his 10 day journey in Sialkot, Pakistan, where he visited the factory where Senda’s Fair Trade soccer balls are produced. This is his sixh blog post from his trip. 

View the first post [+] | View the second post [+]  | View the third post [+]View the fourth post [+] View the fifth post [+] 

In this last installment of Santiago’s blog posts about his trip to Pakistan, he describes a theme that was very much important to him, interactions with the locals during travel.

I wanted to have some of the typical experience of people’s lives in Pakistan. A lesson I learned from traveling is that sports, especially soccer, has the power to connect people, no matter their differences. And by connecting with locals when we travel we can better understand their way of living, as well as discover unique ways to make a positive impact during our stay. All of these combined will ultimately help us become more responsible travelers, who can learn to respect and embrace the local way of living, and discover ways to positively impact the communities we visit. During my stay, I got to experience and leverage two different sports: a game I was familiar with and a game that the locals grew up playing.

One day after touring Senda’s ball factory, I went back to the neighborhood of some of the factory workers. The locals organized a soccer game on a local field, about two miles away from the factory. I saw all kinds of people playing (some without shoes!) with grass and dirt all over them. Many of the kids thought it was interesting to see a foreigner visit them. We played two 25-minute halves, until it got so dark that no one could see the ball anymore. It was a fun and intense game, and unfortunately, my team ended up losing 0-1 with a goal in the last 10 of the game.

I thought it was only going to be a pick-up game, but somehow someone out of nowhere brought out a trophy for the winning team. This gesture showed how caring the people from Pakistan were to me. I gave the “captain” of the other team a Senda Fair trade soccer ball, so they could remember the game after I was gone. Afterwards, I was invited to the house of one of the people who played in the game. We ended up talking about the game we played, international soccer life in general in the USA and Pakistan. I really enjoyed playing soccer with the locals: it was a great way of  meeting new people and seeing how they live.

One thing that I had never done before was play Pakistan’s national sport, cricket. It was also in a “pick-up” format, in the yard of one of the families I visited while learning how to stitch a Senda ball in a village. It was a bit of a challenge to understand all the rules of the game, but I was able to try my luck at the bat, I even hit a few balls,  and really I tried it. It helped me earn people’s respect, and I got smiles from everyone watching. Overall, I was extremely happy with how my trip went, and having the opportunity to play sports with the locals really allowed me to connect with people in a unique and special way. I highly recommend you try the same next time you are going somewhere new!

How about you? Do you have any personal stories of playing sports with the locals while traveling ? Comment below!

 

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