Soccer in the Wilderness, Zambezi Region

Children in the Wilderness (CITW) work with former Kaizer Chiefs and Premier Soccer League (PSL) player, Gordon Mackenzie Gilbert in his capacity as CITW Soccer Ambassador, to promote conservation and environmental management programmes through soccer. Children in the Wilderness first partnered with Gordon to launch Soccer in the Wilderness in 2013. Gordon, an avid wildlife enthusiast, is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of underprivileged children. Each year, he generously devotes time away from his personal business interests to promote conservation programmes with CITW in remote rural communities in both Zambia and Zimbabwe, and in April 2017 he assisted with a cross-border, inter-school soccer competition that included participating CITW schools.

The tournament attracted twelve teams from Zambia and Zimbabwe. As the games were being hosted in Zimbabwe, there was great excitement getting students across the border. Thanks must go to Wilderness Safaris who graciously offered free transportation for the teams, and to both the Zambian and Zimbabwean the Immigration Departments who were extremely helpful in facilitating the cross-border formalities, ensuring that everything went smoothly for the visiting teams. Each match was highly contested but thanks to training of sports coaches at schools in Livingstone, the Zambian team’s efforts were visibly superior. CITW arranged for a floating trophy for the winning team and this year’s winner was Zambia’s Holy Cross School.

Congratulations must go to all participating teams and sports coaches for a fantastic day combining community, conservation and sportsmanship. Gordon Gilbert’s association as CITW Soccer Ambassador for Soccer in the Wilderness plays a vital role in empowering children through education and sporting fun, as he shares not only his soccer skills, but his passion for conservation as well.

This is what one student had to say after chatting with Gordon: “Let us extend our passion for football to preserving our environment because if we do not preserve our environment we will have no environment to play football from.’’ ~ Elijah Simukonda of Nalituwe Primary School, Livingstone Zambia.

The presence of Wilderness Safaris Zambezi Region Managing Director, Mr Ron Goatley, boosted everyone’s morale. Ron commented on the level of camaraderie amongst both students and teaching staff from the two countries and was particularly impressed at the end of the tournament when he saw Zambian teachers offering to help the Zimbabwean teachers develop their training techniques. With this in mind, CITW would like to work on getting some teacher-training sports workshops going in the months ahead; we believe these efforts will not only enhance the game of soccer for the students but it will also further encourage cross border interaction between the schools.

Suffice to say, the 2017 Soccer Clinic was a huge success for the CITW conservation and culture calendar. We would like to close this year’s Soccer Clinic news with an inspiring quote from our ambassador, Gordon Mackenzie Gilbert:“As an ambassador for CITW I feel passionate about making a difference where is matters most, there is no measure as to how big or small the impact may be as this will differ every time. The moral of the story and mission is clear, make it count and do you best to leave a footprint or legacy that you will be proud of. I love to feel I am influencing someone or people in a positive way, if we all strive to be better and do better, this world will be a better place. I feel that we as humans need to change the mind set of expecting someone else to make it happen; we have the right and responsibility to stand up and do the right thing. To protect and conserve our heritage and leave it in a way we will be proud of for the future generations is what needs to be second nature. Many have conquered and sacrificed their lives for the life we have today, let’s not be greedy and selfish in the way of taking and not giving back. Together we can make a difference, even if it means standing alone to make that first step.’’

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