Alex Richardson: Football Coaching and Playing in Ecuador

I would have to say that it was the best experience of my life so far – Alex Richardson describes his life-changing experience coaching and playing football with children in Ecuador

“If I was asked about how my trip went or would I recommend this organisation to travel with? How about, what the placement involved on a day-to-day basis or what extra travelling I got done? How I found living with a host family or anything I thought someone should know before they go, then here we go!

This was my experience: The flight to Ecuador was a long 13hrs but all went well after blubbering mother from Heathrow airport. I watched pride and prejudice four times on the American Airlines flight. I put it on mute the fourth time and played it out to myself. I thought my impression of Mr Darcy was really quite good and so did the woman next to me. The flight to Quito was full and cramped.

Esteban at Quito airport and a million other taxi drivers greeted me and the drive to the house was a nightmare. It is worse than in Cairo. A red light is a green light and green light is a green light and a dead end sign is a short cut sign.

Anyway eventually arrived fortunate to still be alive and the family were really nice. I sat down with them and had a little chat before exhaustion took over.

They were very early risers so at I was up having breakfast. Then I had a little explore and found a bank and a super market before finding three other members of the group. John, James and Huw who were all very nice. We played football for three hours and my fitness was quite embarrassing.

Sunday morning brought a 3hr church service which considering I go to church once a year, I did pretty well. The house was perfect but the shower was very small which meant if you were 6ft 2 it was never going to be easy. There were two daughters and now two big brothers. I shared with Christopher who was Irish and could not speak a word of Spanish. The rest of the group arrived.

We had our first meeting in the afternoon where we were given maps and tourist attractions etc. We had a group of 26 (5 girls 21 boys) and we all got on extremely well. About half could speak Spanish. Then we had our Spanish test so as to split us into classes before having two weeks intensive Spanish. After that we were given placements whether it be teaching football or English. My football was pretty good by the end considering we played at least 3 hrs a day against the locals.

A month went by and I have attended school five days a week between 8.30 am to 12.30pm. The day usually involved a warm up session where we did general exercises. Following this we taught football skills before going into a match and finally ended up with a few general games. I and one other took the class with the usual PE teacher in the background whilst the kids attempted to improve their football and their English. There were 1,300 kids in the school and it was rather small and therefore it was amazing how much they appreciated it. The kids fall in love with you straight away and you do get an immense amount of satisfaction out of it all. I went pretty much every morning from Mondays to Fridays. Your presence certainly does make a nice contribution for example the schools managed to buy new balls, whistles and general equipment along the way.

Football was a seriously popular sport out there and I took an interest in the local team called La Liga. My host family also enjoyed football and they continued to treat us well. The two kids were great fun and I knew I would not be able to leave when the time came, as everyone was so friendly.

The final month arrived and the kids at that stage were shouting my name when I walked into school and shaking your hand when you left saying ¨hasta luego¨. It was hard when that was no longer the case.

I failed to realise that Aprils fools day was non-existent here and when I put a for sale sign on the house, my family did not find it very amusing!

I was all over the place once again for Easter starting up north in a little town. I did the canopy tour there like the one in France, which was a good laugh. My money was all over the place. Ate like a king and lots of late nights. So I was there two nights and then headed further south and here I did a Horseback ride up to the waterfalls and it was the biggest thing I had ever seen. I bathed there for ages and it was the most refreshing thing in the world. Sore arse after the horses though!

To sum the trip up, I would have to say that it was the best experience of my life so far. You have certainly picked the best time of year to go as I arrived 10th February and the weather was gorgeous all the way through to May.

Three months on and I have certainly had some interesting ‘experiences’ but the most rewarding was teaching. The children are very special and you get a huge sense of achievement when a lesson goes according to plan or a pupil learns a new concept. I’ve gained the most amazing sense of achievement.”

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