While we were staying in Otočak, a small village near the Plitviče Lakes, we would race down to the local soccer field every afternoon. The four of us would only play for a little while, before some of the local children would start peeking at us from behind walls or suddenly be immensely interested in the dirt and potholes around the field. Slowly the children would gather. Then a serious discussion would start. You could hear a few English words in between fast Croatian. Words like, ‘Football… kick… play… Da! Da!… Hello.’ This was clearly heading towards fun.
After their meeting, they would come over and awkwardly ask if they could play with us, using the few English words that we had heard earlier. About ten boys, that were all around twelve years old, came to play every day.
Choosing teams was quite easy. We would point to players and try and gesture who would be in a team. It got much easier once we learnt the names of our newly found friends – Davide, Angelo or “Ankie”, Nicola, Luka and a few others. I was called “Kolly” and Eulain was simply “Yay”.
Eulain and I were the only girls that took part in the fast and aggressive game. Within five minutes all the players would be dripping with perspiration. As we played a hot, dry wind swept across the sports grounds.
After about thirty minutes of enthusiastic calling, gesturing, running, laughing and having heaps of fun, a crowd of local children would filter into the benches surrounding the small, concrete field. They would cheer in Croatian, and every now and again try to use English words like ‘Yes Baby!’. You could not help but to burst out in laughter at this!
Later, one of us would swap with one of them and the teams would be mixed. This is when the fun really began. Ankie and Ruzow, despite not really being able to communicate much, got on really well. At one stage, Ruzow passed a short ball to Ankie, the boy started yelling enthusiastically and waving his hands in front of him, ‘Run! Run! Run, Ruzow!’ Everyone cried out in laughter! It was hilarious!
It is always so special to interact with some of the local children of the places that we visit. It is amazing how different we grow up and how much we can learn from each other. As I am writing this, I wish that we were out there right now, playing soccer with the children of Otočak.
Until next time,