The most popular sports in Burkina Faso are football, athletics, handball, cycling, basketball and boxing. At school, the children play a variety of games.
One of Ouagadougous football teams, Etoile Filante (Shooting Stars), has a number of well-known players, including Ali Ouédraogo and Moumouni Zagalo, and in 1998 Burkina Faso came fourth in the Africa Nations Cup. There are at least ten Burkinabè footballers playing outside the country: in Holland, Belgium, France, and the Middle East. For example Mamadou Zongo plays for Vitesse Arnhem, a first division team in the Dutch League.
A professional career and the vast wealth it can bring, is often an exciting prospect for young players. Burkina Fasos national under 17 football team is based at the Planète Champion, a training centre near the capital city, Ouagadougou. The squad trains at the Municipal Stadium, which was rebuilt to host the Africa Nations Cup. Thirty-seven boys aged between 12 and 16 come from all over Burkina Faso to live, practise and go to school at the centre. They hope for a chance to play in the Africa Youth Cup in 1999. Some of the boys plan to leave the country to play professionally and they are watched by scouts from West Africa and Europe at key matches.
Gaston Rouamba aged 16, is captain of the squad and plays in defence:
"My family lives in Ouagadougou, but Ive stayed at the Centre for three years, since it was established. Weve played a lot of games to get this far. Our biggest success so far was to qualify for the youth competition in France during the World Cup. We won a tough game against Mali, winning on penalties after a 0-0 draw. The atmosphere in France was amazing, with supporters from all over the world. I was so happy to be a footballer. I saw five matches, supporting Nigeria. They were unlucky not to go through.
"At home I wouldnt have had time for football studies and school. Now Im just one year away from taking my final school examinations. Its very important for me to continue my education. I cant play football forever."
During the long school lunch-break (noon to 3pm) pupils often run races or play games. Here are a few of the games school children play:
For example, one game of strategy (see picture above) involves children making a board in the dusty ground by scooping out 36 pockets, six by six. One child uses 12 pebbles as his or her pieces and the opposing child uses 12 sticks or straws. The players take it in turns to move one of their pieces. They can move vertically or horizontally, but not diagonally. The object is to get a row of three of their own pieces, either horizontally or vertically. Each time a player makes a row s/he can remove one of the opponent's pieces. The winner is the player who reduces her or his opponent to two pieces.
|Laissez tomber game|
Laissez tomber, ne laissez pas tomber
The children form into pairs, one climbing onto the others back, and arrange themselves into a circle. A ball is thrown from one pair to the next, with half the children chanting 'Laissez tomber', and the other half 'ne laissez pas tomber'. There are no winners or losers, but lots of laughter every time a pair allows the ball to fall.
Le renard, passe passe
Children sit in a large circle, facing inwards. One person starts the game by trotting around the outside of the circle carrying a ball and repeating the song 'Le renard, passe passe, Chacun a son tour, Chez le coiffeur Mamadou Keita'. At some point the runner drops the ball against the back of one of the children sitting down and then runs around the circle to escape. The child hit by the ball has to pick it up and run in pursuit, aiming to throw the ball at the runner before s/he manages to complete the circle and take the vacated space. If the child is caught s/he has to stand in the middle of the circle on one leg.
Photos for Oxfam GB by Crispin Hughes
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