We had an earlier-than-usual start to our day today, which was fine because the weather was absolutely stunning and almost all of our scheduled activities took place outside. We met Visar and Sanije at 9:30 and caravanned to a primary school in the suburbs of Pristina, about 10 minutes from the city's center. Upon our arrival, we were warmly welcomed by two gym teachers and the school's principal, who immediately (and unsurprisingly) offered us macchiatos from the school's own cafe. After we downed our morning coffees (for some of us it was our second), we were led into a large, covered turf field where approximately 20 fifth grade girls and boys were eagerly awaiting the start of their hour-long soccer session that we were invited to participate in.
As soon as we got started with basic warmup drills it was extremely evident that these kids had a serious passion for soccer. Girls and boys alike were celebrating goals like their favorite players and pulling out moves that their older siblings had taught them the night before. They were brimming with excitement and when they didn't have their game-face grimaces on, they had ear-to-ear smiles plastered across their faces—the happiness and energy were positive and electric. It was so awesome to see this amount of excitement for soccer. The source of a lot of this energy could be traced back to the gym teachers who kept the class fun and engaging with their own zeal.
After leaving the school we went for a brief walk in the park that's a few blocks from the hotel, had lunch at a casual pizza/ice cream place, and then headed off to the stadium to watch the women's and men's Kosovo Cup finals. The women's game pitted Pristina against Mitrovica—between the two teams there were six girls from the project, so there were a handful of familiar faces to watch. The game was super physical and high-scoring. Neither team could find the back of the net in the overtime period that was forced after Blerina's clutch free kick conversion in the waning minutes of the game, and Pristina went on to win in dramatic fashion after PKs. The presentation of the trophy was lavish, complete with confetti, fireworks, and sparklers.
Like the basketball game, the men's soccer final was a display of Kosovo's most raucous fans. The roars from the stands were only outdone by the flares and colored gas that were thrown onto the field in protest and celebration. Despite the excitement of the game, we left early because our hunger got the best of us. Our group parted ways for dinner—Carly, Baeth, Kat, and Cass went to a cafe that apparently had delicious food and iced coffee, while Em, Tori, and I went to a new restaurant where we had great omelets and sandwiches. We're looking forward to our clinic in the stadium tomorrow, and hopefully some small-sided pickup after!