You can plan out a soccer tournament in rural Kenya until you are blue in the face but you never know how it will turn out until the day of. Not much is easy to accomplish in rural Kenya because of power outages, political riots, letters written too vaguely, teams not able to get all their players to the game… the list goes on. Our Rongo U16 Peace Tournament was held April 22 & 23, 2017 which was a day before Kenya’s Primary Elections so the local police that we hire as security almost did not allow us to hold the tournament due to tensions being high in this area. With a little persuasion they agreed to send us four policemen to keep the peace.
We start each tournament by vetting the players to weed out the men from the boys. This can be very tricky since many youth don’t have birth certificates, many 20 year olds are still in high school due to the lack of school fees, and difficult to determine age because the Luo tribe can make some very big boys. We tried to be as fair as possible and ran into some university students that thought they should be allowed to play in the U16 tournament. One university student, Eric, was frustrated by being vetted out but was given a job as the game balls guard and he amazed us with how hard he worked during every game of the tournament.
Ten teams of about 18 were selected and each player was given a wristband to prevent older players from sneaking into the team after vetting. This was the first time many of the youth had seen a wristband like this so they were cautious not to let it rip off. Most of the teams were from the Rongo area but this year we invited our friends from Nairobi to join.
Children’s Garden football team from Nairobi was sponsored by a family in Kauai who paid for their transportation, food, and the team got to stay in a hotel where they were thrilled to have hot showers and comfortable beds. The team played four games and landed in 6th place. It was fun to see our Nairobi friends making some new friendships with our Rongo friends before heading home to Children’s Garden Orphanage on an 8hour bus ride.
All kinds of characters came to watch the youth play and the community was so grateful that an event like this was held in their area to bless the children.
Out of all the talented teams the final game came down to Freedom and Showgrounds. Showgrounds won 1:0 in a great game. They were fighting for the prize, playing some amazing soccer. Each player of the first place team took home $25 (which is more than some of their parents might make in a month.) Second place team, each player received $15. Third place team player received $10 each. All players of the top two teams also went home with a brand spankin new Adidas soccer ball thanks to Charity Ball. Third place also received some team balls. A big thank you to Charity Ball for hooking these kids up with soccer balls once again.