Today was the big one, the Mini Mondial (Mini World Cup) put on by PeacePlayers International in the city of Herzliya. The soccer tournament is held annually to help foster peace between Israeli and Palestinian children, centered around the idea that sport can bring people together. The kids are placed on teams made up of both Israelis and Palestinians and get to know each other by participating in weekly and monthly activities leading up to the main event.
Each team is given a country to represent in the Mini Mondial. Myself and the other students on this trip were assigned a team to assist, and I landed Colombia. Though my team was difficult to locate at first (as kids were roaming everywhere), we eventually cobbled them together in semi-organized fashion.
I worked closely with Ayob, a 19-year-old individual who was also helping out at today's event. And when I say worked closely, I mean I was saddled up to his side most of the morning and afternoon as he was the only one speaking English with me. Other than one kid who recited the words "we are the champions" a couple of times and another one who said to me, "Don't touch my hat," the kids on my team were lacking in the English department. And that was just fine, but it did make it difficult for me to feel useful during our matches.
Though verbal communication was pretty much thrown out the window, I did kick a ball around with the kids in between games. The same one who told me not to touch his hat had a penchant for doing high-five fake-outs, by the way; it seemed most of the kids on my team were little pranksters. Ayob and the other coaches did their best to keep them organized, but they were not easily tamed.
Colombia went 2-3 on the day at the Mini Mondial. It was not the best possible showing, but they did win their final game in a shootout against South Korea, and so the day ended on a positive note. I was happy for them; only wished I could have lent more of a hand. I'm not even sure which team/country won the entire thing, but I am sure the kids had a lot of fun playing all afternoon. Ayob and I took a selfie and are now official Facebook friends. Thus, in the words of Kip, "I guess you could say things are getting pretty serious."
In the evening, we took in a basketball game between two Israeli outfits, one of which sported two former University of Michigan basketball players: Stu Douglass and DeShawn Sims. Douglass and Sims' team — Hapoel Gilboa Galil — opened up a double-digit lead in the first half, but fell behind in the third period. They ended up winning by seven or so, capped by one player's epic slam dunk as the final seconds withered away.
It was a rather fitting ending to a day full of sports, one that left me both exhausted and upbeat.