Scicli, Ragusa (NEV), 7 September 2016 – The ball bounces up from the grass and with a firm, quick movement Yhaya manages to stop the goal. “No problem” says the boy with a strong Sicilian accent, a pat on the back and the game continues. “Yalla, yalla” scream the ebony-coloured boys with no shoes who hit the ball over and over again into the opponent’s net.
It is 28 July, a hot summer afternoon, and we volunteers and guests of the Casa delle Culture (House of Cultures) of Scicli have been invited to the “Crisci Ranni Casa Don Puglisi” educational centre, a park located between the lower and upper part of Modica. A meeting place for the kids of the neighbourhood since it has vast areas for walking, playing and doing homework.
After the initial embarrassment and curious looks, we manage to organise a multicultural football tournament with jerseys and fans, a game of volleyball, a table where the word “Uno!” can be heard in different accents, and a heated game of table football.
The environment quickly becomes relaxed and serene and everyone finds a place where they can get to know each other and chat. What do the kids of Crisci Ranni and those of the House of Cultures have in common? Courage, perhaps? I don’t know, but it is surprising to see how sport and games bring people together, bypassing all boundaries, both cultural and linguistic, generating aggregation and friendship, even among the shyest and most timid boys.
“One love, one life, let’s get together and feel all right”, the words of Bob Marley rise over the voices of the boys and enter our ears, making us sway and capping off this moment in the best way possible. Around the corner of the building with his back against an old wall is Abdi. He is showing the younger children of Crisci Ranni how to take a perfect penalty kick. “You are the best” says Abdi to one of them, who smiles and pokes his tongue out at the other kid.
Atitia and Lamarana are immersed in a human circle, learning how to play “schiaccia cinque.” “We count in French so that it is easier to play,” says a young girl who is trying to get her peers involved in the game.
Meanwhile it is nearly sunset and Fabio, a volunteer of Crisci Ranni, invites us to sit in a circle. There are a lot of us! Different faces, looks and stories have brought us here today, in this circle. The words of Don Puglisi spoken by Fabio leads to a loud applause: “If everyone does something, a lot can be done.” We welcome the night and the bright sky of Modica to the rhythm of improvised drumming. Everyone dances and we all could be anywhere, under a baobab tree, in the desert or in a small Sicilian village. Finally, a delicious dinner arrives consisting of rice croquettes and freshly baked focaccia bread. We all eat it in a festive atmosphere, at the end of a very positive day.
It is a step forward, towards intercultural dialogue, towards connecting with others, towards new ways of seeing things. It means taking a long trip, seeing what is beyond our eyes and returning with something extra. It was a beautiful day for all the young people, but I can guarantee that is was also special for me. I will return home with the words of Kant in my mind, “No one has any greater right than anyone else to occupy any part of the earth, the right to the earth’s surface belongs to the human race in common”.
The ball lies on the grass. Tomorrow there will be another game. With lighter hearts, we go home.