There is more than one team representing the United States at a soccer tournament in South Africa this month.
A group of 10 fifth- and sixth-grade students from San Francisco’s French-American International School are competing in the first World Cup for French International Schools. The competition, hosted by the French Embassy in South Africa, features 25 schools from five continents and runs through June 27 in Johannesburg.
Team members include fifth-graders Steven Carnevale, Lewis Bobrow, John Fiszman, Lizzy Wagner and Metincan Esrefoglu, and sixth-graders JB Shin, Jean-Luc Nachi, Clement Hinz, Katherine Miclau and Sebastian Pieri.
The cost is about $2,300 per student for airfare. Host families and the tournament organizer cover the remaining costs for activities, meals and lodging.
The team, coached by French-American Lower School Principal Ray Hinz, won its first three matches against Denmark (3-1), Nigeria (2-0) and Zimbabwe (2-0). The team faces Tunisia on Friday for a chance to advance to the quarterfinals.
Off the field, the team has visited the Apartheid Museum, gone on a safari and learned local dances. They’ll also meet with players from opposing teams in an International Youth Parliament to discuss world topics and learn about the perspectives of children their age living in different parts of the world.
The students were also part of a parade in the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto, where they’re staying with host families. Hinz said by phone from South Africa that seeing his students learning and playing with the local children is a highlight of his career.
“The best of my life as principal and teacher,” Hinz said. “When I see my kids interact with other kids from Soweto it’s incredible.”
The team had many Soweto supporters in attendance when they took the field for their games, Hinz said.
“In the end of the game my kids run to the spectators from Soweto,” he said.
Another highlight, Hinz said, was being at Wednesday’s World Cup match between the U.S. and Algeria. The team was seated in a section filled with U.S. fans.
“It was an incredible moment” when the U.S. scored the winning goal, Hinz said.
“Really, the last minute when USA scored, it was huge,” he said.
“Everybody just hugged my kids.”
More information on the tournament can be found on the school’s
website at internationalsf.org