I had my first Jamaican street soccer experience the other night. After a few days of getting a feel for the community and where and when soccer was played, I put my indoor shoes on and sauntered down the street. A group of guys always play at five in the evening in front of the church where our PC training takes place. After convincing my host brother that I can indeed play soccer and play it rough, he told me to go down there the next night ready to play. So I did.
When I approached the group, they all stopped playing and looked at me like I was a cross between the swamp monster and a Victoria Secret model wearing all white in the rain. They immediately put me on a team. I looked all business in my white indoor Nikes, so it was clear I was there to play, not to watch them and get hit in the head with a stray ball. My teammates raised their hands so knew who I was passing to; there are no such things as pinnies or jerseys in street soccer. The game restarted like it had never stopped and I was officially at my first street soccer tryout.
I did surprisingly well considering I pretty much forgot who was on my team, it was getting dark and was starting to rain. I only really passed to the dude with the red tank top on because he was the only one I knew for sure was on my team. There is a constant stream of shouting while playing football on the street, and I could only figure out what they were yelling by what was going in the game. I felt a little bit like a deaf and mute kid who finally got picked first for the kickball team at recess.
Playing in the street implies that other people are going to want to use the street. Whenever a car would come out way there would be shouts of ‘CYAR, CYAR!’, which is how car is pronounced in Patwa. The cars would be polite and drive around the big rocks that were being used for goals. Play was stopped when a person or a family would walk by; no one wants to be responsible for hitting Grandma in the head with a ball. Play was also stopped when there was a massive argument about whether a goal was scored or if there were too many players on one team. Or if someone totally ate shit on the slippery as snot wet street. That happened and I totally laughed, as did everyone else, much more loudly than me. It’s nice to see that the humor in tripping and falling on your ass crosses culture lines.
The game was finally stopped because it became impossible to see. Everyone started introducing themselves to me as famous soccer players, so I told them my name was Mia Hamm. To which I got b. I got blank stares. I was invited to come back the next night. And I did. And scored two penalty kicks and got referred to as a ‘baller’. I think my integration strategy will be playing football in the street and sweating my ass off while doing it. I just may come back with some wicked footskills from playing with ridiculously quick and talented Jamaicans for two years.