Jump Rope in the BIG Stadium October 19, 2011  by      

A recount of the jump rope team’s special day on October 2, 2011 performing for thousands in Kenya’s National Stadium for the Kenya Premier League game. Story by Florence and video by Arafat of Kibera Worldwide.

Through the coordination Carolina for Kibera staff, the Nyayo National stadium management [Kenya’s biggest stadium] and Kenya football federation, the Paka Skippers jump rope team experienced the opportunity of a lifetime.

The day of the team’s biggest performance was heralded by good weather. The sun shined with all its brilliance and the breeze swooshed by trying to limit the heat. In retrospect, the sun captured the jump rope team’s mood; from their sitting stance to their earnest looks, the team told a story of their own. Innocent, the jump rope coach, issued last instructions to the team as they mentally prepared for their performance, “We are going to perform the same routine that we have been practicing for the last week. I hope you are ready.” Since the hired cars were already waiting for team, the children asked questions in quick succession to get clarification. A look of earnest concentration was evident on the children’s faces and excitement and happiness filled the air as the team got ready to leave.

To witness the children asking questions was impressive. Most of the children are between the ages of seven and seventeen, yet there was a certain maturity and sophistication in their questions. It is astounding to think that jump rope was only introduced March of last year. In a rather oppressive environment, the team has been able achieve something worth more than medals by taking small steps and working hard each day. Apart from nurturing the children’s talent, jumping roping has also given them opportunities to witness what life is about outside Kibera, like this opportunity to perform at the National Statdium. As they huddled in the car, the excitement that had previously been kept in check exploded in torrents of song and dance. The beauty of Nairobi’s streets  was lost to the children as they entertained each other with jokes and teasing. It was nice to be given the opportunity to accompany them. As they sang and danced, I was reminded of how good it was to be their age –so care free and full of adventure.

Too soon, we arrived. The stadium stood in its glory. Painted in red and cream color, it was both magnificent and intimidating from outside. Guards ushered us into the VIP section of the stadium. “Wow,” the children exclaimed. Their exclamations were valid: the view of the stadium was magnificent with its rows and rows of stands, green carpet of grass, and the red running truck. The team absorbed the scene and settled in as they waited for their time to be the center of attention.

Being a football match between Kenya’s most celebrated local football clubs (AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia FC), the stadium was parked to full capacity. The spectators wore the colors of the team they supported so shades of blue and green illuminated the stadium. The jump rope team was scheduled to perform twice: before the match started and at the first half-time. The first performance was full of nervousness and tension. However, it is only natural that they felt overwhelmed by the applause and the mega crowd that watched their performance. With a little pep talk from Caroline Sakwa (head of department), Abdul Hussein (sports program officer) and their coaches, the team had their confidence restored and performed courageously. The second performance was worth watching; from the group’s planned routine to their freestyle, the coordination was impeccable. The jump rope team formed a beautiful sight against a background of spectators who were captivated by their performance. Some could even be heard saying, “Look at those children they are really good. Who thought rope skipping could be taken to a whole new level?”

If only the spectators knew they were not far from the truth! As David, one of the coaches puts it, “our main aim is to make jump rope a national game by competing, performing and spreading the game everywhere we go.” Though the team was disappointed not to be seen on local televisions and spotted by DSTV— the jump rope team still feels lucky and grateful to have had such a opportunity. How many dream to perform, be applauded and showcase their God given talent to a mega crowd? A lot of people, right?

There you have it: Carolina’s jump rope team had their moment! I believe it wasn’t luck smiling down on them, but hard work and dedication that led them to perform in the stadium. Each day you can easily find the team as they practice and sweat it out at the local school’s field that acts as their training ground.

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