Pump Free Soccer Balls Come to Kibera June 28, 2010  by      

By Jeffrey Okoro, CFK Administrative Assistant

The conditions on the soccer field at Undugu are less than ideal. The uneven field and dusty grounds are filled with tiny rocks would make a great cart racing track – but doesn’t make a great soccer pitch. The only way to know for sure it’s a soccer pitch is the Carolina-blue jerseys running up and down during training sessions or tournaments held in the field. Today, the scorching heat, the roaring crowd, and the choking cloud of dust would certainly fool you for the Coliseum. Everyone seems to be wearing a football jersey, making one think that the World Cup tournament changed its venue to Undugu grounds – something that Cantar (Abdul Hussein-Sports Program Officer) would literally trade anything to see. With the entire Kibera being turned into a showroom for football jerseys, I am wearing my English jersey hoping they thump the well-oiled German machines (final score England 1-4 Germany, God Save the Queen).

CFK’s entire staff is out in full force helping to provide new pump-free soccer balls to the community – but we were no match for the soccer fanatics who have thronged the pitch. The impatient crowd moves back and forth, making a wave around the perimeter wall which the CFK staffs are trying so dearly to hold. The launch is key for CFK since it already runs a sport program that addresses key social issues around ethnic violence, youth unemployment and public health. With the launch, CFK is going to increase the number of youths it reaches through the sports program and also to give kids who have never owned a soccer ball a chance to have one.

Bobby Sager, the philanthropist who is donating these balls through CFK, steals away the show and at this point, three things happen:

  • Bobby Sager picks up one of the yellow ball and stabs it. The crowd goes OOOOH!!!!!!! Their jaws drop. Bobby grins. I’m dumb founded. He squeezes the life out of the ball by squashing it flat. The lifeless piece of rubber slowly inflates and within a few seconds it’s as good as new. The crowd goes WOOOW!!!!! . I think this is cool. Doubters get their chances to try and destroying the ball but to no avail, and at this point I think Kibera has finally found something equally tough to match her.
  • With all the media scrambling for a shot, I get a chair and lean on the small tent to get better shots with the flip camera I have, which turns out to be a very bad idea. I sink in with the tent drawing unnecessary attention to myself.
  • The entire crowd breaks into a “tupe mipira, tupe mipira” which translates to give us the balls, a chorus last till the better part of the evening.

It’s amazing how an inflated piece of rubber that is kicked around arouses such passion in people which makes this day no ordinary day. I think the balls are fantastic for a place like Kibera with its tough terrain but even more the word “hope” written on the balls. Hope that there will be success stories from Kibera or even produce our own Bobby Sager. Amidst all this that seems like chaos, I notice something that is very rare in Kibera, something that would be pretty hard for you to notice if you are not a resident of Kibera. In what seems like unruly mob, I notice that this entire people are in one accord, they are in one spirit, the spirit of football. With all the different football jerseys that would have easily represent different ethnic tribes or religion in normal day in Kibera, now stands shoulder to shoulder representing the power football has that surpasses negative ethnicity and religion.

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