A GAME house, please
– wishes from a youth exchange program between Denmark and Lebanon
”I met a small kid who reminded me of one of the children from my own GAME-zone back in Denmark, and it occurred to me that all the zones in Denmark and Lebanon are alike, but with different approach and surroundings.” These are the words of 18-year old Rabea Nasrallah, who is a volunteering Playmaker in GAME Denmark, after he participated in the weekly soccer practice in the Lebanese zone Qasqas.
Since the establishment of a GAME branch in Lebanon in 2007, GAME has been a NGO with international visions. Lebanon is a small country of 4,5 million inhabitants and is right now hosting more than one million Syrian refugees, which increases the demand for a common platform approaching the youth across cultural and religious background. This is where street sports can be a neutral meeting ground of diversity, where friendships and understanding is founded. GAME’s ambition is to be present in more countries in the years to come and as a part of the international strategy the GAME Playmaker Exchange Program have been launched this summer and proven that street sports cross boundaries.
GAME is build on a sports-for-all philosophy which demands that all children and youth should have access to sports and culture. Street sport offers flexibility and availability, which is not current elsewhere as it attracts the children and youth who does not participate in sports organized by associations because of social or economic challenges.
To create social lasting change it is necessary to include the youth in the issues found in their local area. In GAME Playmaker program youth in the age 16-30 are educated to handle weekly trainings and events in their neighbourhoods, called GAME zones, in both Denmark and Lebanon.
The combination of the Playmakers’ knowledge of the local area and GAME’s experience with volunteering and street sports results in a national and international community with strong local roots in every zone. The Playmakers are therefore the core of the change GAME is aiming for, as they are ambassadors of gender equality and democracy on street level.
GAME Playmaker Exchange Program
GAME Playmaker Exchange Program is now initiated with the aim of letting the Playmakers in Lebanon and Denmark learn from each other in order to encourage the proximity of the international GAME. Four Playmakers, Bernarda and Rabea from Denmark and Zeina and Mohammed from Lebanon, has visited each other this summer and discovered similarities and differences between the life of a Playmaker in Denmark and Lebanon. They are the first of 12 Playmakers, who will take part in the program in the coming three years. The exchange is funded by the Danish NGO KVINFO and MS Actionaid Denmark and enables the Playmakers to benefit from each other and connect on a personal level. The four Playmakers were chosen after sending an application, which means that all Playmakers have the chance of being a part of the program.
Bernarda and Rabea travelled to Lebanon in June, where they assisted the Lebanese Playmakers in GAME Finals Beirut. Around 1000 children and young people joined the biggest GAME event of the year including tournaments and other activities. To succeed it is necessary that everybody contributes, but according to Bernarda, every drop of sweat was worth it:
”The Playmakers said that this year’s GAME Finals was better and bigger than the previous – and no doubt it was hard work! During the day I though about Denmark and GAME Finals in Copenhagen. We are really lucky to have the GAME House, where we have all the courts and equipment almost ready to use.”
The number one priority for the youth of GAME Lebanon is a permanent facility like the houses in Denmark. The public accessible courts are few, which makes it costly to keep the training going. This results in a short season running from March until July. Zeina and Mohammed seemed impressed after experiencing the benefits of a GAME house as the centre for street sports in the cities of Copenhagen and Esbjerg. A permanent facility in Lebanon would root GAME as a local organization and create a physical space for social change through street sports.
Sharing the knowledge of what works
During her stay in Denmark, Zeina noticed the influence of a simple popsicle on a hot summer day: “One of the Playmakers brought ice cream for the children to eat after training. It made the training a lot more social as they chatted afterwards.” The four Playmakers shared these tips and will bring them back to the rest of the Playmaker group in Denmark and Lebanon. Mohammed explained how the Playmakers in Lebanon obtain different levels depending on their engagement, which ensures that everybody is challenged on their level. It motivates the Playmakers to be creative and encourage them to take part in other social projects or even politics. Only 3 % of the Lebanese parliament are women and the interest for politics is low due to dissatisfaction with the political system. GAME is a democratic forum where the Playmakers can test their ideas and develop personally like Mohammed did: ”I’ve learned to speak in front of other, which is really nice. As a role model I grow as well from the advice I give to others.”
GAME’s Playmaker Exchange program is cultural- and knowledge exchange, a personal journey and a motivational factor for the rest of the Playmakers. Furthermore, it proves that youth-led street sports as a vehicle of social lasting change is both needed and working elsewhere in the world.