However, one thing that does stick out in my mind was a brief conversation I had with the SOAS attendees whilst warming up. After the usual pleasantries I noticed the Beyond Borders logo on their track tops, and we got to talking about their recently completed tour of Syria, Turkey and Lebanon. Apart from the fact that just the idea of a month-long football tour of the Middle East sounded like absolute heaven to me, what struck me was the passion that all four of them clearly felt for the tour they had just returned from. It was a mental note that stayed at the forefront of my mind, perhaps powered by the massive amounts of jealousy I felt at their having such an experience. The more I learnt about last year’s tour from the guys, the more jealous I became, as it was clearly a once in a lifetime experience, both in sporting terms and in terms of having such a great opportunity to experience and interact with Middle Eastern culture.
So when Toib explained to me that this year they were planning a second Beyond Borders event in Africa, and that there were spaces available, I made sure he knew how much I wanted to go straight off the bat! And when he confirmed that Dillon Chapman (also from Goldsmiths) and myself were in the tour party, I was made up.
Any doubts or worries I might have had about the tour or about fitting in with the group have long gone by now, as the tour preparations are well underway. Getting to know the other guys has been a particularly enjoyable and easy experience, which is not always the case when coming into a new team from outside. Goldsmiths and SOAS seem to tread similar ethical paths, and the philosophy of the trip is certainly one that I, as well as all the other tour members, share, but it has been a relief to have fitted in so easily.
Knowing a few of the guys beforehand helped, but the main reason for the smoothness of the transition has been the welcoming attitudes of all of the other tour members. Every member to a man has been great at making the effort to make myself and Dillon feel part of the project and at ease. With a month to go, I already feel comfortable within the tour group, and I’m sure by the end of the trip we’ll all be even closer. In fact, we’ll probably all need a bit of a break from each other after that amount of time in shared company!
I can’t wait for September 1st, I’m so glad to be sharing this unique opportunity with this group of guys, and I really hope that our going out there will not only be a great personal experience for us, but will be a benefit to the region and people we are visiting