Off the farm, onto the field

By Clara Rondonuwu

Sustainable coffee is our core, but we're much more. Meet our farmers league football team in Laos.

As the sun sets over our lush coffee agroforest in Laos, nestled between the Mekong River and the foothills of the Annamese Cordilera, a different kind of harvest takes place.

Our team gathered at the local stadium for a friendly football match and erupted in laughter as teammates from diverse backgrounds connected and deepened their connection to the community we serve.

Vansouksan our goalkeeper saves the ball during a training season. SLOW/Saosavanth Ketmala 

| Vansouksan our goalkeeper saves the ball during a training season. © Slow/Saosavanth Ketmala 

As the sun sets over our lush coffee agroforest in Laos, nestled between the Mekong River and the foothills of the Annamese Cordilera, a different kind of harvest takes place.

Our team gathered at the local stadium for a friendly football match and erupted in laughter as teammates from diverse backgrounds connected and deepened their connection to the community we serve.

Among them, Vilaphong Santaincee, our Field Manager Assistant and striker, proudly shows off his new jersey. “Stepping onto the field fills me with excitement,” he says. ”Our diverse team brings unique energy, sparking curiosity about who we are and what makes us a team. But more than that, it creates a platform for understanding and collaboration, breaking down barriers and fostering a sense of belonging within the community.”

| Our team, from left to right (top) Phoutthasin Savanna, Samnieng Souksakoun, Vilaphong Santaincee, Davan Machaiah, Khamlar Thongvilai, Phouvan Phoutthavong, (bottom) Saosavanh Ketmala, Vansouksan Xaiyavath, Khonesavanh Phanthamath, Phoukhao Phoutthavong, Soukhy Phuedphon.

| Our team, from left to right (top) Phoutthasin Savanna, Samnieng Souksakoun, Vilaphong Santaincee, Davan Machaiah, Khamlar Thongvilai, Phouvan Phoutthavong, (bottom) Saosavanh Ketmala, Vansouksan Xaiyavath, Khonesavanh Phanthamath, Phoukhao Phoutthavong, Soukhy Phuedphon.

 

Football is many things for our team. It’s a chance to socialise, build teamwork and connect with the community on a deeper level. In a few weeks, they’ll be playing in a highly anticipated event: the Paksong District football competitions celebrating Laos New Year.

Held in Paksong, the vibrant heart of the Bolaven Plateau coffee region, these competitions aren't just about winning. They're about showcasing the unity and spirit of the community. 

 

Playing together teaches patience, shared goals, and teamwork - the best things I’ve learned. - Phoukhau Phoutthavong, Slow's Office Administration Head

 

“Football is a fantastic bridge-builder,” explains Santaincee. “We share laughter, sweat, and real bonds, away from desks and pressures. Local leagues draw players from all walks of life, from government officials to farmers. “You might find yourself playing with someone you see at work,” Santaincee smiles. “That connection goes beyond jobs, making us closer as a community.”

| Sanni Torniainen and Nguane Luangsy cheering their teammates from the sidelines.

| Sanni Torniainen and Nguane Luangsy cheering their teammates from the sidelines.

Phoukhau Phoutthavong, our Office Administration Head and winger, knows firsthand how football strengthens the team. “Even on tough days, football is a mood-booster,” he recalls. “Playing together teaches patience, shared goals, and teamwork - the best things I’ve learned. These lessons translate beyond the field, helping us work together more effectively to support our community and achieve our shared goals.” 

The women in our Laos office, like Somchai Sengaloun (data collection), Latda Khamleu (forestry team), and Sanni Torniainen (CSER Officer), also leave their mark on the field, forming their unofficial team. “They score the goals, I bring the noise,” Khamleu said with a laugh. 

Over 30 people from diverse backgrounds and ages dedicate their skills to Slow Forest’s work in Laos. They bring different perspectives and approaches to growing nature-positive coffee, enriching our work in Laos. Similarly, the diversity of the football team brings different strengths and perspectives to the community, fostering innovation and collaboration in addressing their shared challenges.

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