The Challenges of Creating a Soccer Field

In November 2008 Trust in Education visited the village of Tangi Saidan to meet with the school headmaster.  After discussing curriculum and budgets, we turned to the fun part—soccer.  At their request, we had provided goalposts for their soccer field, as well as uniforms and shin guards donated by families in Lafayette. Although the boys’ school had 1400 students, fewer than 50 participated in their after-school soccer program.  Obstacles to expanding the program included a field that was small and rocky, and no one to run the program. So together we came up with a plan for renting from a farmer land that adjoins the school to provide a new soccer field and a paying a coach to create a more inclusive program. The most animated response came when Budd asked the headmaster whether Tangi Saidan’s soccer team would be willing to play Lalander’s team. He laughed, smiled, and said “We can be ready tomorrow!”

Over the course of the next year, one of our program directors and the villagers in Tangi Saidan located the land to lease for the soccer field and negotiated a written lease.   The cost of the field was quite reasonable: $600 a year.  But then—of course—came a snag.

In April 2010, just about the time the weather cleared so we were good to go to build the field, we learned that nomads had chosen to camp nearby and were refusing to allow anyone to build a soccer field near their camp. Why? Because their daughters and wives would be seen by the soccer players, or their wives and daughters would be forced to remain inside or covered.

Were they paying rent for the land they occupied? No. Did they have the legal right to prevent the land from being used as a soccer field? No, but they had squatters rights and they were physically prepared to defend those rights. They won. Might over right. Or, actually, they might be right. They had been squatting on that land for years.

Why do farmers allow nomads to “squat” without paying rent? Because they bring sheep that feed on the farmer’s grass. The farmer gets the processed grass when it comes out the back end as fertilizer. That’s what we call “in kind” contributions.

The soccer field for Tangi Saidan saga continues. It’s still on their “wish list.”

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