Written and Submitted by: Dom Petruzzelli ('26)
“Cape Town!? Cape Town, South Africa!!!?” This is the typical reaction I got from most people when I told them that the Cabrini Men’s Soccer Team was traveling halfway across the world for spring break. We knew this would be an amazing trip, but little did we know that it would turn into something words and pictures could never fully describe. We departed from Newark, NJ, and sixteen hours later, most of which (luckily for me) consisted of sleeping; we landed in a completely new hemisphere, ready for adventures and experiences of a lifetime.
Day 1: As the sun reflected off the beautiful blue ocean and shined into the hotel dining room, I could feel the anticipation from the team, coaches, and families who joined the trip. Day one’s itinerary consisted of mountain climbing and our first gameday. Due to high winds, we could not visit the top of the iconic Table Mountain, but the smaller Signal Hill Mountain did not disappoint. Hill Top Mountain overlooked all of Cape Town, including the 2010 World Cup stadium. After taking tons of pictures, we moved to one of the richest parts of Cape Town: Camps Bay. Camps Bay is home to a gorgeous beach and many restaurants. We had lunch on the waterfront before heading to our first game. We arrived at game one, ready to play Durbanville FC, a semi-professional team. After the game, some Durbanville youth players (u8-u12) were super excited to meet our team and even asked for our autographs. Day one certainly set the tone for the entire trip, and our excitement was building!
Day 2: Day 2 was a hot one! Ninety-five degrees and not a cloud in the sky! Our agenda consisted of service work and an authentic South African dinner at GOLD restaurant. We had transferred to a town called Goedgedacht. Try saying that five times fast! We had the unique opportunity to learn about the amazing work the Goedgedacht Trust does in the rural areas outside of Cape Town. Here we helped with their Care for the Planet Work and ran a soccer clinic for the local children. We participated in the “Amazing Race,” where we solved clues throughout a giant olive farm. During the race, our boundaries of teamwork and grit were pushed to the limits under the beating sun. Being with the kids whose parents worked on the farm was something special. It filled all of our hearts.
After a long day in the sun, it was time for a 14-course African dinner! When I say this dinner had everything, I am not exaggerating. Courses included ostrich, mango chicken, and everyone's favorite African word, SPRINGBOK (African Antelope), face painting, vocal performances, and lots of clapping. The dinner ended with the entire team on stage dancing with the performers!
Day 3: On day three, we went to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held captive at one point during his life. We learned so much about the prison and the island itself. A former prisoner actually gave us the tour. When we returned to the mainland, we had free time to shop, eat, and relax before traveling to our second game against Rygersdale FC, another semi-professional team. The guys were very enthusiastic about this one; I am not sure if it was because of the view of Table Mountain from the field or because we had another great opportunity to play in another country. Not many people can say they played soccer on two continents, let alone in Africa.
Day 4: Halfway through our trip, we know many more adventures await us. On day four, we went on Cape Canopy Zipline Tour! This tour wasn’t your standard ziplining adventure. In fact, we were ziplining through the mountains! It was exhilarating! The ziplines ranged from 80 meters to 350 meters across a dozen lines. Of course, everyone was nervous at the first line, but after that, we all got the hang of it….well, except Coach Bond, who got stuck multiple times and had to crawl his way back to the ledges. The views from the ziplines in the mountains were breathtaking and certainly something I will remember forever. Day four ended with dinner at The Greek Fisherman. If you ask the guys, many will say that ziplining was their favorite excursion of the whole trip.
Day 5: Day five included another “first” for many of us: surfing! Surfing had a lot of hype surrounding it because it was the first time on the trip that we got to spend at the beach! The weather was beautiful, the UV was high, and the waves looked great! After being taught how to use the giant surfboards, we hit the water. I can confidently say that everyone caught at least one wave (even the coaches)! I had never surfed before, but it was fantastic! Sure, I may have fallen in the water more times than I can count, but it was exciting once I finally caught that wave!
Game three was the second part of this exciting day. We traveled back to Durbanville to play our final game of the trip. It was certainly thrilling, with a lot of back-and-forth play. We may have come out on the wrong side of the result, but the game rounded out the Cape Town tour. Honestly, the experience of playing in another country is unmatched. Our motto for each game was, “not many teams get to play on two continents, and even fewer win on both continents!”
Day 6: We made it to (in my opinion) the best day of the trip! Everything about this day was an 11/10. (Well, maybe, except for the multiple, lengthy drives as we quite literally drove all over Africa). We started the day at Leipzig Primary School. No one knew what to expect as we drove up the dirt road to this one-story school with only five classrooms. But as we exited the bus, a rush of emotions hit us all. I get chills every time I talk about it, even as I type this right now. Seeing the glowing excitement on these little kids' faces put so much into perspective for us. Each classroom includes two grades, with an average of 50 kids between the two grades. The students ranged from kindergarten to 8th grade. They welcomed us with cheers and a song before we took a tour of the school. We then ran some soccer drills with the students and played against them for our “final game” of the trip. I don’t know if I can emphasize enough how excited the kids were to play with us. It was truly heartwarming in ways that I cannot describe.
Just when we thought the trip could not get any better, it did! We transferred to Aquila Game Reserve for a sunset safari, where we would search for the “Big 5.” As we loaded up into the safari vans, the animals were approaching: giraffes, rhinos, hippos, and buffalo! We even witnessed a baboon steal someone's lunch. Then we entered the lion’s den, my personal favorite. I got amazing pictures of the lions looking directly at us. The animals were close enough that we could have reached our hands out to pet them -- which, of course, we did not. Our sunset safari ended with refreshments as we watched the sun go down over the horizon.
Day 7: Our final day of the trip started extra early as we set out for a sunrise safari, which wasn’t really sunny because, unfortunately, it was raining, but again, the search for the “Big 5” was on! We were able to spot four of the five. The leopards were nowhere to be found. Later we headed to Boulders Beach, which helped make up for the rainy morning. Here, we met hundreds of tiny African penguins roaming the beach! Shopping and socializing with the locals rounded out our time at Boulders Beach before returning to the airport for another 16-hour plane ride.
Words and pictures cannot truly describe the adventures, experiences, and memories of this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Of course, the agenda was jammed packed, and the activities were unbelievable, but the journey was more than that. South Africa has an enormous disparity between the upper and lower classes, to the point where a middle class barely even exists. This was evident in our travels every day. Service work and making a small difference in a community were a substantial part of the trip. We quickly came to the realization that we are all extremely blessed and lucky to have the opportunities that many others do not. Ubuntu, meaning “humanity to others” or “I am who I am because of who we all are,” is a word that we learned during our time and interactions in Africa, and it is something that certainly now lives within each of us. Over the course of seven days, we learned and appreciated that ubuntu is not just a word with a fancy meaning but a way of life. I can proudly and confidently say that the Cabrini Men’s Soccer Team is closer and stronger than ever because of ubuntu!