The Darling Madalas is the football team that I have been invited to play with every Sunday. They call it social football, which is the equivalent of the British Sunday League or the Swedish ‘Korpen’. The guys in Darling Madalas are between 25–50 years old (my own estimate). Most of them have played high-level football earlier in their lives and many of them are now coaching at various levels, including the highest division. They play almost every Sunday morning around 10am on a field in the middle of nowhere, and after the games they go to the bar for a few beers. (I have noticed that Zambians like their beer, and it does not seem to matter if it is early in the morning. For example, my coworker’s husband insisted on buying me a large beer during breakfast this Saturday and he would not take no for an answer)
I was the only Muzungu (white man) in the team, and hence the only one who could not speak Nyanja or Bemba — two of the most common languages. There are 72 languages in Zambia and most Zambians understand at least four or five of them. English is the language they use in the Government and, like Sweden, it starts being taught in third grade. Zambians tend to use 2–3 languages interchangeably when they speak to each other so occasionally I will be able to understand the topic of conversation when they use an English word. But 98% of the time I have no clue what is going on.
Luckily, the language of football transcends all cultural boundaries so you do not need to know the language to participate. I was welcomed with open arms simply because I played with them. That’s the beauty of sports. The more I participate in these social football games, the more I will be able to understand the local language and integrate into the culture.
Götze, Isco, Odegaard — these are the three nicknames I received after the game. Still not sure if it was because I played like them or looked like them but I will go ahead and assume it was the former.