The Rhino Cup Champions League was established in 2016 to help eliminate the practice of rhino poaching by the young men of the communities surrounding the nature reserves. It is through this league that we hope to uplift, engage and protect. Soccer has the ability to bring communities together, create bonds, friendship and trust amongst community members. This league's intention is to support upliftment in the communities, to engage and educate communities on conservation, sustainability and growth and to protect the Rhino, wildlife and the ecosystems around these creatures.
If somebody says, I will give you $10,000 to go work for three or four days, do something exciting, track an animal, in a place you're very familiar with and kill that animal. I'll head back to the place where my ancestors used to live, kill a rhino, hack off the horns, come back give them to you, you give me my money and now my life is better off, so the money dream goes, it is good, now there's happiness.
We've been coming to Mozambique for about four-and-a-half years now, the Rhino Cup Champions League (RCCL) started in August 2016. It grew from there we kept coming back every two to three months, bringing soccer kit to the guys, to see how we can truly help the communities in Mozambique, talking to the community leaders and so on.
So, when we came here, the community said they could use help with a Soccer League and so here we are now with an official league based on the English Premier League, which is a point system; three points for a win, one for a tie, zero for a loss. We have 12 teams, playing a 22-week season, a home-and-away game and 20 week 22 weeks from now we'll find out the winner. Game one came down to a pretty good end, we couldn't have been more excited. It's easy for us to take a lot for granted, what a soccer kit or just giving someone something makes them feel special. They feel needed and wanted in this world and giving them just a soccer uniform they automatically feel proud, happy and something to look forward to. There's competition in their new uniform, this brings it up a level.
My name is Bernardo, I'm a part of this committee that is organizing this championship. We are here today just tointegrate this championship as a kickoff.
Soccer is huge here, there are kids bottling up plastic bags, just to use as soccer balls, everyone's always playing soccer,whether it's little kids, whether it's adults, whether it's whoever, everyone here plays soccer. It is the crafted culture within the community.
The community are happy about the Rhino Cup Champions League (RCCL) being established with in their community. We decided as a committee to start this kickoff in Sabie, Maputo, Mozambique. The community has shown us a very positive sign in really embracing the (RCCL) because this is for us all. We are trying to upgrade this community, encourage the young guys to play soccer, to ensure they avoid many things like drugs and poaching. We are trying to draw their attention and concentration the game of soccer.
Nearby is the Kruger National game park which creates an interesting kind of relationship between the village and the game park. Many store owners, many businessmen here all have a background in something regarding the game park, whether that is helping them out or whether that is poaching themselves.
Poaching starts within the poor communities, some of the people in the community are poor and they have a poor background. To earn some sort of an income the young guys decide to go into the nature park, it's a very big risk they take. As some of those young guys lose their lives there in the bush, but now we are trying them to keep them busy, busy, busy.
We gave ourselves five years, so we'll give it another two and a half years. Once you start having just a soccer or community project added on to that then maybe we'll start to see a difference within the community.
Humans are making all the animals go extinct because we want to try to impress each other so the conspicuous consumption is created of “I want to impress you with this piece of art” whether it's ivory or rhino horn. “Look at what Ihave”, “look at what I can afford” and just that mentality is irritating enough that you know it's just a way of life now. That very characteristic and perception of life builds up the emotion of anger that some humans find it okay to kill an animal just for status. A lot of the communities have physically been moved so a national park or a wildlife reserve could be created so they were pushed off their land, the land was fenced. So, in their eyes what they see is rich white people coming to take photos or hunt those animals but the community members now have no access to land that was once theres.
In the beginning of 2017 Rachel Ledebuhr started her class with about 35 boys and at the end of that year she had about 15 boys left in her class. She lost twenty boys which it is unclear whether all twenty boys were because of poaching but definitely a good number of the young boys were. At one point in the year Rachel Ledebuhr went into class and on the board was the words “rhino horns” and dollar signs all around it. So, she stopped class and had a little conversation about why it is important to preserve our wildlife.
At least seven years ago when I did my training, we would sing songs about catching poachers and hating poachers and castrating the poachers. You were trained but there was an enemy and if we capture or kill that enemy then we win this war realizing that, that's not, it's holding the line a little bit but it's not the long-term solution. So, when we came here to actually meet with the poachers, “the big bad wolf”, you realize that they are actually great guys. They are normal people, with dreams and families and being there in their economy and environment you realize that there's no place to actually get a job.
Rich and greedy people, those are the people to blame. I mean, this idea is not new, being involved in communities, no matter what you do it's nothing new. Although, no community engagements have really been successfully carried out in the past as many companies seeking to do “good” within the communities, end up commoditizing the community’s poverty through the platforms of media exploitation.
Wild and Free Foundation is doing something huge for the communities and people appreciate it as well. Providing them with uniforms, providing them with real games and a real set up of games is huge. There are countless people inviting their friends and family to the games all the time.
It's a good sense of motivation for young players. You know if you got a new jersey representing the team you play for, you are motivated on and off the soccer field. You want to show that I'm wearing a new jersey, I have to show the people that this is going to be a good game.
Sport is a proven, scientifically proven, to be an uplifting thing where it improves; grades, concentration, creativity and now when you have the team involved, you have a responsibility to that team, you have that sense of hope and that, Wow somebody cares about me. As we see the smiles what we are all so proud and happy that Wild and Free Foundation has achieved a sense of true happiness and upliftment within the communities. In the start of it all we were all about guns and camouflage and when you look at that, even if you look at a website with guns and camouflage, you know there is no happy ending there for somebody. Although, now we're protecting rhinos from the outside inwards by uplifting the communities.
In 2017, after our first Rhino Cup Champions League knockout tournament, which was just a small tournament not a league yet. The ladies within the communities came to us personally and said; “my kids will never go back to the Kruger”. There is certainly hope for a brighter and better future.