The Troodos Mountains stretch some 120 KM (about 75 miles) across the middle of Cyprus. This part of the island is known primarily for natural beauty, tranquility, cool temperatures, and its beautiful churches, some with world famous fresco paintings. The difference in temperature between the rest of the island and the Troodos is illustrated by the fact that during the winter months of January, February, and March there is skiing down the slopes of Mount Olympus (the highest peak on the island).
When other PPI – CY teams practice outdoors during the day, PPI – CY’s program in Agros, a village in the Troodos, are held indoors with kids bundled up in sweat pants and sweat suits. While this area of Cyprus is known for many things, it is not primarily known for offering basketball programs for young girls. PeacePlayers International is changing that every week with its program in the picturesque village of Agros.
Of the over 50 villages and towns that reside in and around the Troodos Mountains, none offer any type of basketball team or program for young girls. This year, PPI – CY can boast that we offer the only such program to young girls in the entire mountain range and its surrounding areas. In previous years, only a handful of girls participated in the Agros program, which was dominated by boys. When practice started this year, veteran PPI – CY members Galateia Kitromili, Skevi Hatzinikolaou, Irene Kostea, and Stavroula Stavrou showed up with a bundle of their friends wanting to participate in PeacePlayers, and Coach Antonis Tsolakis was more than happy to oblige.
When in year’s past maybe one or two girls would show up for practice, Team Agros now fields an entire team during each practice and at bi-communal events. “I like Peaceplayers” says Skevi, “it provides an opportunity to make new friends, and helps us with communication with new people.” PPI – CY is clearly providing an opportunity that these girls cherish and are intent on taking advantage of in the future. Fellow veteran Irene Kostea told this blogger that “I have played three years now with PPI – CY. I want to play again next year, and the next year because its fun and I want to continue to play.”
What is great about the PPI – CY girls program in Agros is that the combination of new and old members illustrates the impact that PPI – CY can have on the mindset of a young Greek-Cypriot. When asked if they get nervous, or if playing basketball with girls from ‘the other side’ is a difficult task, the four girls with previous PPI – CY experience respond, almost in unison, “No, it is so much easy…and fun.” However, the newer members responded that during PPI – CY’s Earthdance Streetball Festival this past September, as first-timers it was hard to play with kids from across the island’s divide. They quickly clarified that is was just hard to try and play basketball with kids when they could not speak the same language, and, at times, it proved to be very frustrating.
For most children, first participating in one of PPI – CY’s twinnings, tournaments, or bi-communal events is a mental and physical challenge, for both Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot children. However, as has been proven numerous times, with each jump shot, outlet pass, and high-five that takes place in a bi-communal setting, these tasks become less nerve-wracking. They become normal, every-day experiences for Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot children. If the well-rounded character of Agros’ experienced members is any indication, its newest members will grow more accustomed to playing with girls from the Turkish-Cypriot community, and will show the entire island just how powerful the game of basketball can be when bringing together its divided inhabitants.
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