Reviving and professionalising traditional sports - The big vision through SHF's CEO's pen.
Njobati Sylvie, Founder Sysy House of Fame poses for a photo in her home. (Photo credits - Tafor K)
Remember when, many years ago, probably in your early teens, you would play games that were unlike like the games you watch on TV today, - jumping ropes, hand joggling stones, dodging being shot at? I bet you do - because it is an unforgettable experience of bonding with friends, exchanging cultural pleasantries, and growing old together with the people that matter. But I can also bet that that’s all you remember - a faint memory of the intricacies and dynamics of these traditional sports now looms. This may not be your fault. These games are gradually being extinct - which means we are losing a great chance of living our culture, bonding over what matters and growing old with the people that mean the most to us. I can understand if the memory is blurry. I remember shooting the ball at someone while they avoid being shot at. That’s all. And am here thinking, is that all that made it fun - because I am still having a moment of my life with the memories from P.S Meluf during the short breaks.
Dodging balls lie on the traced dodging field during the dodge ball tournament in Bamenda 06.05.2022 (Photo credits - Kanjo Silas/SHF)
I remember connecting with my friends on Facebook and the first thing we remember wasn’t anyone being the smartest or the cleanest, neither was it any of the subjects we sat in class together and studied but the games we played during the short break. They were the reason we would want to come to school the next day and not the Math or Geography. Don’t get me wrong - studying these subjects was important and great but the motivation to come to a fun environment was also very important.
We also played other sports. I remember struggling with handball. I was part of the school team but to be honest, I wasn’t very skilled. I was just about 9 years old, a very little-skinned girl, intelligent, and could walk long distances but can’t say I was athletic. Then there was football, an amazing game I love till date but cliched to men then - 1999. These 2 mainstream games needed experience, skills, and fitting in a particular gender ( Handball for the girls, football for the boys) - It was a taboo to cross-play.
Fast forward to 2022, and I am now a mother and my daughter who will soon be 5 hasn’t been involved in any traditional games, her bestie and big cousin Tina at 8 neither.
Pupils play dogeball during the the dodge ball tournament in Bamenda 06.05.2022 (Photo credits - Kanjo Silas/SHF)
We are still in 2022. Only now, there is an armed conflict in anglophone Cameroon that has seen the education sector suffer the most. Between 2016 and 2019, we could boast of up to 50% of children in this region going to school. A sad reality that can (has) change(ed) the fate of a pupil, a community, and a nation. But as education gradually gains pace in these regions, it will take more than just regular school attendance and usual subjects to entice children some of whom were already learning how to earn money from petty trades. I keep thinking to myself, how can we make it better and more fun for these children. Isn’t that what we do? We look after each other to protect humanity. Arts, Culture, and Sports have proven to be innovative and inclusive tools, not just in the development of life skills, but also in the promotion of social cohesion and intercultural dialogue. These can be designed to speak to any change we want and I say this without mincing a word. From pushing political reforms to enhancing reconciliation, Arts, Culture, and Sports are very important in crafting the future we want. That is why I started this organization Sysy House of Fame - to contribute to Sustainable Development through Arts, Culture, and Sports. I do not believe in children as leaders of an elusive future but as leaders today. This belief translates to the organization's values making children a key part of our work.
Champions of the dodge ball tournaments express their euphoria.(Photo credits - Kanjo Silas/SHF)
Our sports for Development focuses on traditional games -reviving and professionalizing traditional games such as dodging, sizoh, and jump rope among others.
06th marked an important day for me as I watch a long time dream and planning materialize.
It is 8:am on Friday morning CBC Mend Bamenda, a partner school of Sysy House of Fame. All the pupils are excited. broad smiles in classrooms, smart moves on the verandas. SHF staff are setting up banners and placing trophies and prices on the tables while traditional game experts are tracing the playground. Huraaaaaay it's the first Dodgeball tournament and I am quite excited myself. You can live this segment of the story through the photos. The whistle is blown and all 40 participants, coaches, match officials, fans, and audiences are set for the magic of the moment. 4 teams of 10 have to play down to a winner - the rules are succinct, the competition is fierce but the goal is same for every, have fun, bond and win why not.
Finally, we have a winner - a team of 10 takes home the trophy, gold medals, school bags, books, and pens. They are all set for the next academic year. Every other participant goes with them study materials for next year. It has been an amazing day with euphoria. A big thank you to one of our key Regular Giving donor Coach Ashu Besong, for enabling this tournament through his support. Our Individual and Regular giving permits people with hearts of gold like you to support the activities of the organization through donations as it is a non-profit organization.
SHF staff greets participating teams before dodge off of the game (Photo credits - Kanjo Silas/SHF)
My vision for indigenous sports in Cameroon is entangled in imagination innovation and revolution.
Imagine having community traditional sports centers where you can have the full participation of young people and the community in sports activities that are original and unique to them, that represent their culture, and are inclusive.
Imagine everyone, ‘talented' or not being able to find at least one sports they can participate in.
Imagine having Friday night games with family and friends in an enabling space
Imagine having homemade heroes of homemade sports.
Imagine traveling in buses, chanting songs of victory, clapping to the rhythm of team spirit to go participate in indigenous sports tournaments that are originally yours.
Imagine globalizing these games.
Imagine being a part of the revival and revolution in traditional sports and 10 years on, you are like "I helped built this"
Imagine the endless possibilities brought by Indigenous sports.
2nd position winners show off their medals. (Photo credits - Kanjo Silas/SHF)
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