One more round,
boys! Come on! I want to see you sweat! You don't win
a football match by walking! I want a faster round this
time! What you don't gain in age and height, you will
gain by outrunning the opponent!
Onyango Oguttu, or Fred
as everybody calls him, is shouting his orders to the boys, who glistening
of sweat run around Jacaranda estate next to the Soweto slums. Some seem
to be in a fairly good condition and run easy, others you can really see
are straining. The boys are between 11 and 14, they all live in the Soweto
they are all in a program Fred is heading for MAISHA MEMA. Year
2000 was an introductory year for the football-teams, while year 2001 has
been a build-up-year of hard work to strengthen condition, technique and
eye for the game. Year 2002 should be a peak so far! And to a
certain extent, it was. Mostly wins, some losses, and lots of hard
To ask if the kids like to play football is like asking a gourmet if he
likes food. They love it! - We want to become as good as Nigeria! One of the boys is poking his index
finger at his chest, where big, black letters spell out their favourite
team. Although this might be a somewhat unrealistic goal for most of them,
it is good to have something to stretch for. And as the sweet taste of success
comes slowly by slowly, it encourages them to work even harder towards their
the last few months of the year, Fred let the boys go through quite tough
election tournaments to figure out an elite team, and came up with a number
of 16 representing MAISHA MEMA in the MYSA Kayole league year 2002. There
will still be tough competition to join the team, as the rest of the boys
will compete to enter. MAISHA MEMA's combined team - called the Dream Team
- has already won over much more experienced teams, and even beaten 2001's league title defenders!
The hard work is continuing in 2003, but the team is now eying football
shoes(!). Hopefully, this will mean new triumphs! The U-14
boys' team actually managed to win the Kayole MYSA
league in 2003!
for playing football is also to participate in community work in the slums.
More practically, we are talking about clearing drainages. Unfortunately,
the general view towards outdoor cleanliness and environmental care in the
slums is a don't-care attitude, resulting in a lot of filth heaping up everywhere.
Even the drainages, which are supposed to lead away surface water and whatever
water is thrown out of the houses, are filled with heaps of garbage.
can wonder why most of the inhabitants do nothing to keep a healthier environment.
This is one of the reasons the footballers - and the children in the MAISHA
MEMA Clubhouse in Soweto - must participate in clean-ups. Our hope is that
their attitudes will change to the better. To see them eagerly
waiting for plastic gloves and rakes to be handed out, makes a glimpse of
that hope be seen.
Mema Girls Football Teams
- or Kwame
as everybody calls him, took over the girls' football
teams in Soweto late 2002. Formerly, two other counsellors had
trained them. It all
started late 2000, and it has taken a bit longer for these teams to come
up. Girls normally do
not play football in Soweto due to e.g. sexual harassment. On the physical side, they have been doing
quite much running and other exercises in order to get strength and persistency.
This pays off! On the side of technique,
the biggest challenge has been to make them understand that they should position
themselves and not run for the ball all at once But then, even
Norway's girls did that 20-25 years ago... After years of training and
developing, they eventually became world champions!
Building the self
from the joy and benefit of using the body for something positive
through football, we have also seen that the counsellors develop trust
with the boys and girls. The fellowship created through football between
the children and the counsellors, also creates a basis for them to
freely about tough issues as relationships, sex, HIV/AIDS, hygiene
and so on. Quite often it is revealed that ignorance is rampant in
areas otherwise just joked about.
is not rare to see girls as young as 8-9 years old involve in
sexual games, explains
one of the counsellors. -
What we try to do, is to talk with them in a simple way about
consequences, both emotional and physical. But it is very hard,
since the peer pressure is enormous even at a very young age.
By being together in a group like the football-team, we therefore
hope we can create a positive peer pressure, enabling the girls
to take charge of their lives.
the kids in the slums, mostly due to cultural boundaries, never really
involve in a real conversation with their parents or guardians, many of
them take wrong choices in life. Problem is, these choices often lead
to a severe shortening of their lives... In most cases, the only place
they can talk about making choices, is in MAISHA MEMA. Therefore,
we often see that by playing football and caring for the children in counselling
and friendship, we manage to shoot a goal beyond the goal. One of the
absolute most positive things we have seen, is that quite many of the
kids develop a much better self image. This encourages them to take responsibility
for their own actions, thus hopefully developing a more mature and responsible
lifestyle later in life.
But some things
are more important than football!
of the football-players are sponsored to school by MAISHA MEMA. Realistically
speaking, we know that most of the players will not make a living out of
playing football, and school is a necessity for success in Kenya. All in
all, around 80 children from the Soweto slums are sponsored to school per
"Our hope is that all of them at least will get something positive
along the way; somebody cared, somebody helped me, somebody gave me opportunities
to succeed in life! I think the most important thing either the kids are
in school or not, is being there for them". Fred gets this thoughtful look
while speaking. "As a coach, or a
councellor, I have
to be there in and
out of work-hours. It is a life-style, it has to be from the heart, you
have to sort issues and be so much involved in a kid's life "