Sunday, February 1, 2015

An American football means more in Joburg

Andile from Johannesburg tossing the football.
Andile from Johannesburg tossing the football. Luke Proctor / For the Daily News

SCRAMBLING AROUND the store hours before leaving for my four-week trip to South Africa, I stumbled upon a $10 item that would end up giving me memories for a lifetime: a football.

In South Africa, soccer is called football. The closet thing to American football is rugby and a football is like an item from outer space.

The first time we realized how strange the football was to most South Africans was in Durban, where we traveled to attend a rugby game. While tossing my football on the beach, African guys kept giving it curious looks. It didn't take long before guys were coming over, asking to throw with us. The South African guys couldn't throw the ball more than 10 yards most of the time, but it was clear that they loved it and kept trying to improve their throw.

After Durban, we started throwing the ball everywhere, from the guesthouse where we stayed in the Melville section of Johannesburg to rooftops in Joburg's trendy Maboneng section. The football simply became part of our African adventure.

In Johannesburg, I met Andile Mazibuko, 19, a Zulu man who stayed in Maboneng. Andile and his friend Chester (or Chestaa) had met other students in our study-away group. Andile and Chester were intent on showing us areas of the city that no journalist or tourist would ever see. Each time we met up, the first thing we'd hear from them was, "Where's the football?"

By the end of the trip, Andile and I were discussing how we were going to keep in contact when I returned to America and how one day, one of us could save enough money to meet again in either country. I decided my football's destiny right then.

I said to him, "You know what, you're keeping the football. No 'buts.' "

Andile hugged the ball, promising to cherish it until we met again.

I can only hope that someday I can either go back and toss the ball with Andile again or get him to come to Philly so he can see how it really goes down in Philly - at the Linc.

- Lucas Proctor, Wilmington

"This trip really convinced me that travel is the only thing

you buy that makes you richer."





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