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Salem, Basketball activist

Name: Salem Loutfi
Age: 17
Role in GAME: Playmaker
GAME Zone: Qasqas, Beirut

Salem Loutfi is one of GAME’s most dedicated Playmakers. For the past three years, he has been active in the Qasqas GAME Zone. He learned about GAME through a friend, who was a Playmaker himself, and he invited Salem to join GAME. When Salem is not training kids in basketball, he studies Hospitality Management at the university in his first year. Salem loves volunteering and to serve people to make them happy. And to play basketball, of course.

What was your first impression of GAME?
I loved it. My friend invited me to the GAME Zone, so I went there the whole season. I just went to the Zone and played with them, but not as a Playmaker. So the next Playmaker Camp (the Playmaker education, red.). I volunteered. I remember my first thought was: ”Is it free”? It was unbelievable providing free practice the whole season for kids. That’s unreal in Lebanon. I chose to become a Playmaker, because I love playing basketball. And the Playmakers were all friendly. Now they are currently my best friends. The whole ambience and the whole atmosphere was very friendly. I felt, I just fitted in. I felt, I belonged here.

What do you think makes the practice at GAME different from other sports practices?
You don’t have to be professional in GAME. Of course you must know the basics. But you don’t have to be professional – you can do whatever you want. Be creative, let the kids be creative, include drills they like and involve the players more. The focus on values and empowerment levels is different from other practices, but it’s not hard to do. It’s easy for me, I never found it difficult. We learned the basics at the Playmaker Camp. You just need to apply it.

What motivates you to continue as a Playmaker?
First of all I have never been angry or had a bad experience at a practice. Maybe some practices are hard, but they’re not bad. I’m doing something I volunteered for and what motivates me is when I see improvements with the kids. Maybe also the system in GAME (the point system in the Playmakereducation, red.) always encourages you to reach a higher level. I also like to share my view and opinion, which I find there is plenty of room for in GAME. We’re getting noticed, we’re not alone. Everything motivates me in GAME.

What is the best thing about being a volunteer in GAME?
Getting involved in the society. Maybe also encounter people from many different backgrounds – whether they are kids or Playmakers. It’s interesting uniting many people under a certain thing – in this case GAME. We never thought this could happen. That’s interesting! Usually we don’t find people with different backgrounds united under one thing. It’s unique for GAME, finding many people from different backgrounds, nationality, religion, whatever, to be keen just on the game –on basketball. You won’t find people interacting on the same level, as you see in GAME. I think that’s very important in Lebanon to have this. It prevents many conflicts and once we know more about each other, we won’t be so angry at each other anymore. This will allow us to find solutions for the country in the future.

You attended the Women’s Parade in March. Why did you do that?
I saw the event on Facebook. Some Playmakers, Lara, Reda and Aida, wanted to go. I wasn’t supposed to be there, because I had work, but then it got cancelled, and I joined them. I’m very active and engaged in some protests. I don’t know if you saw the news about the garbage crisis 2015-16? There were protests and I joined them. I won’t go to a protest I don’t actually believe in or support the purpose of. But I supported the purpose of this protest. So I went to support the women’s rights. For example if a Lebanese woman has children, she can’t give them her nationality. Lebanese men can. So let’s say, if a Lebanese woman was married to a Danish man, she can’t give her kids Lebanese nationality. Also the protest wanted to emphasize the issues of domestic violence and discriminating laws in the Lebanese justice system. They demanded to put a minimum age of marriage and stuff like that. I am very interested in these issues.

How does GAME affect you?
First of all GAME provided me with a second family. Maybe that’s what always motivates me and other Playmakers in staying loyal to the wonderful NGO – it’s our family. If I ever asked them for an advice or any kind of help, I would find them near me. They cheer me up, if I ever feel down, they push me to deliver the best, and here I’m talking about the Playmakers and the managers. I’m very proud of showing my loyalty to GAME because of this awesome circle of people. Also GAME definitely boosted my self-confidence, leadership skills and the whole managing stuff, e.g. how to manage events. Also how to manage anger and how to manage conflicts – both others’ and mine. I’m also more confident in public speaking and sharing ideas. And through high school, I used to not discuss but go with the flow. Now I don’t shut up.