Saturday, May 22, 2010

Soccer Tournament Kicks Back

Well it has been a very eventful first week in Mombasa. Last Sunday was especially whirlwind-esque. Bobo and I arrived in Mombasa at about 6am on the bus. I’d slept a little but Bobo had been chewing Miraa so he was wide awake. We went to Bobo’s new place which I had yet to see in person. You have to get to it down a flight of steep stairs, along a dirt road lined with kiosks that, on stepping stones across a small dirty river and through a maze of small paths among the buildings which I still haven’t quite figured out. The place is a single room about the size of my bedroom in which Bobo has managed to fit a bed, two couches, an armchair, a TV and VCR unit and our Nuru computer. He doesn’t have a stove or a wardrobe. The washroom is shared with the neighbouring room. Even though it gets a bit messy, I’ve kind of enjoyed living there. The other people in the building are friendly, and there’s a little baby that hangs around there named Jeremy that I like. There are a lot of pirated movies kicking around so I can quite comfortably sit on the couch with the fan on me and watch movies in the evenings. It’s also a short walk to Tudor so its easy to go visit people when we want. I say we because Bobo doesn’t like me to walk there on my own. Sometimes it bugs me, but considering how we met, it’s understandable.

Anyway, on Sunday we got in and tried to sleep for a couple hours, but we had a lot to do to get ready for the finals of the Kick Drugs Out of Tudor Soccer Tournament that afternoon. We had to get a goat for the prize, Get nets and chalk to mark the field, a tent and seats and water for the guests of honour… We had to make sure the guests of honour were coming. We even went to the media to see if they would send someone. They did, but I haven’t heard if we were in the paper yet. We also had to drop the uniform and boots off to the team. They looked so great. You’ll see all their pictures on facebook and on our website. We are planning to do profiles of the team as well.

The game was amazing. The teams were both excellent, in their teens and twenties and in excellent shape. They were evenly matched and the game was quite exciting. There were a ton of fans there, filling up the entire ground. The majority were from Tudor, but a bunch came up from Kaa Chonjo as well. After every goal, the children from Tudor would get up and run behind the team as they did a victory lap. After their second goal, the offense ran over and dove into the ground in unison right in front of where I was sitting. It was awesome. I didn’t see Bobo at all during the game cause he was so busy coaching, but I assured him afterwards that it was quite entertaining.

Unfortunately, we had a little problem at the end. About five minutes before the final whistle, the score was tied and everyone was tense. When Nuru scored, all the fans and the team went crazy. The Kaa Chonjo team and supporters were less than happy, and perhaps would up by the closeness of the game. They contested the goal strongly and when the ref refused to back down from his decision, they started a ruckus. Many of the women and children left, including two women from the International Centre for Reproductive Health who were there to do a workshop with the youth following the game. The game never finished officially, and the Kaa Chonjo team left, jeering and singing. Our team sat down in front of the tent with their supporters still crowding around them. They left a space out of respect for the other team. At this point some stones came flying out from behind the fence hitting the tent and several of the supporters. A stone fight ensued in which much of the fence and the bushes on the edge of Marycliff school property were destroyed. I am pleased to report that our team did not participate. While the fighting was going on, my friend Jacob, a very wise man whom I worked with during my internship in 2008, took the microphone and made a moving speech to the team about the importance of discipline and integrity and how our team clearly had more. He praised them for how they handled the situation and urged them to hold on to their sportsmanlike attitude as it would help them to avoid the many dangers that exist in their lives, such as drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, etc. I think it really affected them. When things had died down, I stood up and told the team that I was sorry about how things turned out, but that I was really proud of them and proud to support them. I told them to look at all the people who look up to them. Soccer is a big deal here and those youth who excelled at it are real role models, especially to younger kids. Even with the fighting, there were still about a hundred people there celebrating Nuru’s win. I told them that if they continue to make good decisions in their lives (and we would be happy to support them in any way they need), that all these people will be watching, and they will do the same. If they lead by example, they have a real chance at helping to make a better future for their community. I know that many of these slum kids (Kaa Chonjo is also a slum) grow up with violence, drugs, crime, etc, as a way of life. But I think our Nuru members, and now the heroes of the Nuru Tudor Youth FC prove that it doesn’t have to be that way.

That night, Bobo, Jacob and I went to see the Kaa Chonjo Team. I have to admit I was quite nervous to go down there. When we found them, though, they were quite calm and when we told them we were sorry about how things turned out and we hoped we could reconcile, it seemed that they were sorry too. Interestingly, even when emotions run high, and even if there is violence, the guys here very rarely hold a grudge against each other. I don’t really know why, but maybe it comes as a necessity of living in poverty. Of course, on the way out, Bobo got into a shouting match with one of the Kaa Chonjo supporters and I had to drag him away, so things are not perfect. We bought a second goat and invited the other team to join us at our celebration which is to take place tonight. Hopefully this will be a good peace offering. The last thing we want is to create enemies. We are also going to try to redo our workshop on drugs that did not work out last Sunday because of the extenuating circumstances. I hope things go well. If they do, maybe tomorrow we can work together to repair some of the damage to the school ground at Marycliff.
I’ll let you all know how it goes.


PS. Photos of the match are at, for those not currently on facebook.

No comments: