July 2018 Newsletter: World Cup Fever at Ibba


As you come into land at Ibba’s dirt airstrip, there is little sign of habitation except the occasional circle of tukuls (mud huts) and the odd wisp of smoke from a wood fire. With virtually impassable roads, no phone service and a hand-to-mouth existence in this war-torn country, there seems little hope. Yet as remote as Ibba is, it was gripped for a few short weeks by football fever. Retired teachers and FIGS volunteers Julia and Paul Sanders and Sue Hunt were in Ibba in June and sent this report.

Visiting volunteer Sue isn’t sure what to expect when she introduces a lesson on ‘The World Cup’ to the P6 students. A few girls already know the names of one or two famous football players and UK premier division clubs, we suspect from the T-shirts they have acquired and wear in their PE lessons; one has a Lampard shirt, another a Rooney one. We know they love to play football, but a lesson on their favourite game? Is this really what we should be learning in class? But Sue weaves in Geography (maps and flags of the countries playing), Mathematics (scoring, graphs and tables) and English (reading about the teams).

Before the end of the day the teachers are involved. Dumba James has a World Cup app on his phone, Richard can tell you every manager and player in the premier league, and Yoane and Uyaka both have their favourite players and clubs. As the days proceed we notice the teachers mysteriously disappear in the evenings and then discover they are watching one of the two TVs in town. One is in Father Joakim’s tukul at the Catholic church – a huge TV in his little mud hut with a satellite dish outside. He invites the local youths in to keep them out of trouble.


Back in school, the groundsmen find a huge stick to increase the height of the aerial on their radio, all ears on every move. Two more classes get to have their lesson on the world cup. Flags are draped across the blackboards in the classrooms, and maps are pinned to the walls. In the staffroom a large chart to record the scores is created by Julia and takes pride of place, and Dumba is put in charge of filling in the scores as they happen. Every match is discussed and every move dissected, and there is huge speculation about the possible final scores.

Sue, Julia and Paul’s visit to Ibba came to an end before the last few matches were played, but whatever the international community aims to achieve in terms of the protracted peace talks, in one small corner of South Sudan the people have been brought together through the power of their common love - football.

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