„Balatoli, Balatoli!” Kebede wildly pointed to the picture he was holding in the air for everyone to see. It was a portrait which has recently been taken of him, showing him with his new haircut characterized by an Iroquois-like line on the top of his head. It took me some time to realize that “Balatoli” meant “Balotelli”, referring to Italy’s number one football star of today, Mario Balotelli. And indeed, the connection did not seem to be too far-fetched: Balotelli, being of Ghanaian origin, at least looks like he could have learned how to play football on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s booming metropolis and the place where Kebede lives.
And, of course, Kebede is not alone with his beloved hairstyle but only one of dozens of children which live on the streets of Addis and can be found everyday trying to be like “Balatoli” on the city’s majestic Jan Meda sport field while participating in the Sport the Bridge program.
The instance not only reminds me of my own childhood when all the boys would have a little tail on the back of their head to look like their idol Roberto Baggio; our favorite football player back then, it also indicates that no matter the circumstances, dreams rise as high as they can and that football and sport in general can form a powerful device to bring out an individual’s potential in many aspects of life.
This is where Sport the Bridge sets in to give troubled young Ethiopians a sense of structure and a direction with which they might create another life.
While you might think that what I wrote is just the usual Blatter-blabla, I am serious. See the website for more information!