For thousands of young Kenyans, the passion for football is part of their daily lives, whether as players on the pitch, spectators in the stands or watching television at home or elsewhere.
Twenty year old, Abdallah Marro from Garissa county – a striker with Berlin FC (Garissa) who was crowned the most valuable player (MVP) in season 2 and top scorer in season 3 of Safaricom’s youth football tournament dubbed ‘Chapa Dimba na Safaricom’ says that he has seen various players start from scratch and still succeed. He believes that if others have done it before, he too is set up for prosperity.
And, when the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) is actively scouting for young Kenyans in grassroots tourneys to join national teams – those players like Abdala who have shown ball sense based on creative soccer skills, it means that the country now has real infrastructure that will generate top quality football.
Mr. Michael Karanja an FKF coordinator with Chapa Dimba na Safaricom explains that this kind of grass-root tournaments are about so much more than just football. He says they are a recipe for communal cohesiveness in the areas where the matches take place.
“Football is used a tool to bring communities together, to understand and cheer their peers, “He says.
Beyond the football, pitch players are also learning that losing a match is not the end of the road but rather a new beginning to fresh challenges. This becomes a crucial life skill that they can apply in other aspects of life including their education.
As a body whose mandate is to develop and regulate football in the country, FKF also has a task to create centers of excellence to accommodate players at the grass-root level. The National under-15 team center of excellence in Nairobi is one of such institutions.
A failure by the national government to take sports more seriously has seen an avalanche of private corporates coming in to fill that gap. Safaricom, Coca-Cola, and Guinness are some of the few organizations that host grass-root tournaments all over the country.
Mr. Karanja says that this is one of the key ways to support and nature talent among the youth in this country and he is challenging the national government to step up its efforts.
“The Chapa Dimba na Safaricom tournament has improved the quality of players and their organization skills,” he said – adding that a trip to Spain for the Chapa Dimba na Safaricom All-Star team to attend a training camp, provided a stage for exceptional experiences for young people and that it played a crucial role in developing Kenyan football.
Teams also receive handsome cash prizes and a host of individual prizes depending on their performances
Local communities and businesses where the games are played are also reaping from the new wave of grass-root tourneys.
Some locals have landed employment opportunities both directly and indirectly, while local traders more so those dealing in sporting equipment and sportswear laugh all the way to the bank during tournament seasons.
“It has a big impact on the whole society” Mr. Karanja Said.