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Come Along on a Canoe Ride Through the Amazon With Young Sarayaku Footballers

Imagine traveling 67 kilometers by motorized canoe in search of a rival for a sporting match. That is what the young footballers from the Kichwa community of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon must do every week for regular competition.

These kids belong to Club Deportivo Sarayaku's football academy, which not only helps young kichwas from the community learn to dribble, pass, and play defense, but also helps steer them in the right direction, toward team sport, away from potentially dangerous temptations. The school's website says it acts as a bulwark against the “aggression of globalization”:

La niñez y la juventud de Sarayaku son poseedoras de  inteligencia, talentos y capacidades para vivir en el habitat de su territorio. Son hábiles en el bosque, cazadores, conocedores de la botánica, de los cosmos, de las montañas, de la lluvia, delas cascadas, del rayo, de las piedras, del árbol sagrado del Uchuputo y de la Pachamama. Hoy se van cayendo poco a poco ante la agresión visible e invisible de la globalización, por la postergación y abandono de los grandes ministerios, por los proyectos industriales y la falta de solidaridad que conlleva a un grave riesgo a temprana edad como el alcoholismo y migración de la juventud.

The youth of Sarayaku possess intelligence, talent, and the ability to live in their territory's habitat. They are skilled in the forest as hunters, knowledgeable about botany, the cosmos, the mountains, the rain, waterfalls, lightning, stones, the sacred Uchuputo tree, and of the Pachamama (Mother Earth). Today they are falling slowly to the visible and invisible aggression of globalization, to the postponement and abandonment of the large governmental ministries, to the industrial projects, and to the lack of solidarity that leads to the serious risk at an early age of alcoholism and youth migration.

Helping to build self-esteem and pride in the local youth culture is another goal of the football school because of the camaraderie built among the team when representing their community. This can be seen in the fun the close-knit team has when it sets off for the six-hour river journey to play its next match.

Eriberto Gualinga, a filmmaker from the Kichwa community, accompanied the team to capture the trip along the Bobonanza River, which also included a 90-minute bus ride. The team faced its latest opponent: a football school located in Palora Canton.

Filming with a GoPro camera, Gualinga documented the conditions in which the youth travel to play the sport they love:

En la Amazonia el clima es impredecible, se puede ver las cuatro estaciones del año en el mismo día, el sol en la mañana, lluvia en la tarde, fuerte viento, arboles con flores, arboles que pierden las hojas. Los pequeños viajeros se enfrentan a todas estas adversidades.

In the Amazon, the climate is unpredictable. You can see the four seasons of the year all in the same day: sunshine in the morning, rain in the afternoon, strong winds, trees with flowers, and trees that lose their leaves. The little travelers face all of these adversities.

The river is sacred to the Sarayaku people, as it is not only the means of communication and contact with other communities, but it is a source of sustenance. That is why the Sarayaku people are well-known for defending their natural surroundings because of their relationship with nature. And now the river is also a way to connect with other communities for a friendly match of football.

Escuela de Futbol Sarayaku. Pantallazo del video de YouTube "Viajando por el Bobonaza con la Escuela de Futbol Sarayaku".

Sarayaku Football School. YouTube screenshot from the video: “Viajando por el Bobonaza con la Escuela de Futbol Sarayaku” (Traveling along the Bobonaza with Sarayaku Football School)

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