Maisha Mema ::: Bringing better life to the less fortunate.

Shooting Goals  

- One more round, boys!  Come on!  I want to see you sweat!  You don't win a football match by walking!  I want a faster round this time!  What you don't gain in age and height, you will gain by outrunning the opponent!

Fredrick Onyango Oguttu, or Fred as everybody calls him, is shouting his orders to the boys, who glistening of sweat run around Jacaranda estate next to the Soweto slums. Some seem to be in a fairly good condition and run easy, others you can really see are straining. The boys are between 11 and 14, they all live in the Soweto slums, and

Maisha Mema Football Team.


they are all in a program Fred is heading for MAISHA MEMA. Year 2000 was an introductory year for the football-teams, while year 2001 has been a build-up-year of hard work to strengthen condition, technique and eye for the game. Year 2002 should be a peak so far!  And to a certain extent, it was.  Mostly wins, some losses, and lots of hard work. 


Tough Competition
To ask if the kids like to play football is like asking a gourmet if he likes food. They love it!  - We want to become as good as Nigeria! One of the boys is poking his index finger at his chest, where big, black letters spell out their favourite team. Although this might be a somewhat unrealistic goal for most of them, it is good to have something to stretch for. And as the sweet taste of success comes slowly by slowly, it encourages them to work even harder towards their goal. 

During the last few months of the year, Fred let the boys go through quite tough election tournaments to figure out an elite team, and came up with a number of 16 representing MAISHA MEMA in the MYSA Kayole league year 2002. There will still be tough competition to join the team, as the rest of the boys will compete to enter. MAISHA MEMA's combined team - called the Dream Team - has already won over much more experienced teams, and even beaten 2001's league title defenders!  The hard work is continuing in 2003, but the team is now eying football shoes(!).  Hopefully, this will mean new triumphs!  The U-14 boys' team actually managed to win the Kayole MYSA league in 2003!

Community Work
A requirement for playing football is also to participate in community work in the slums. More practically, we are talking about clearing drainages.  Unfortunately, the general view towards outdoor cleanliness and environmental care in the slums is a don't-care attitude, resulting in a lot of filth heaping up everywhere.  Even the drainages, which are supposed to lead away surface water and whatever water is thrown out of the houses, are filled with heaps of garbage.  One can wonder why most of the inhabitants do nothing to keep a healthier environment.  This is one of the reasons the footballers - and the children in the MAISHA MEMA Clubhouse in Soweto - must participate in clean-ups.  Our hope is that their attitudes will change to the better.  To see them eagerly waiting for plastic gloves and rakes to be handed out, makes a glimpse of that hope be seen.

Maisha Mema Girls Football Teams

Frederick Omole - or Kwame as everybody calls him, took over the girls' football teams in Soweto late 2002.  Formerly, two other counsellors had trained them.  It all started late 2000, and it has taken a bit longer for these teams to come up.  Girls normally do not play football in Soweto due to e.g. sexual harassment.  On the physical side, they have been doing quite much running and other exercises in order to get strength and persistency.  This pays off!  On the side of technique, the biggest challenge has been to make them understand that they should position themselves and not run for the ball all at once…  But then, even Norway's girls did that 20-25 years ago...  After years of training and developing, they eventually became world champions!

Football-girls! -----------------

Building the self image
Apart from the joy and benefit of using the body for something positive through football, we have also seen that the counsellors develop trust with the boys and girls. The fellowship created through football between the children and the counsellors, also creates a basis for them to speak quite freely about tough issues as relationships, sex, HIV/AIDS, hygiene and so on. Quite often it is revealed that ignorance is rampant in areas otherwise just joked about. 

It is not rare to see girls as young as 8-9 years old involve in sexual games, explains one of the counsellors. - What we try to do, is to talk with them in a simple way about consequences, both emotional and physical. But it is very hard, since the peer pressure is enormous even at a very young age. By being together in a group like the football-team, we therefore hope we can create a positive peer pressure, enabling the girls to take charge of their lives.

Since the kids in the slums, mostly due to cultural boundaries, never really involve in a real conversation with their parents or guardians, many of them take wrong choices in life. Problem is, these choices often lead to a severe shortening of their lives... In most cases, the only place they can talk about making choices, is in MAISHA MEMA. Therefore, we often see that by playing football and caring for the children in counselling and friendship, we manage to shoot a goal beyond the goal. One of the absolute most positive things we have seen, is that quite many of the kids develop a much better self image. This encourages them to take responsibility for their own actions, thus hopefully developing a more mature and responsible lifestyle later in life.

But some things are more important than football!

Most of the football-players are sponsored to school by MAISHA MEMA. Realistically speaking, we know that most of the players will not make a living out of playing football, and school is a necessity for success in Kenya. All in all, around 80 children from the Soweto slums are sponsored to school per December 2003. 

"Our hope is that all of them at least will get something positive along the way; somebody cared, somebody helped me, somebody gave me opportunities to succeed in life!  I think the most important thing either the kids are in school or not, is being there for them".  Fred gets this thoughtful look while speaking.  "As a coach, or a councellor, I have

to be there in and out of work-hours. It is a life-style, it has to be from the heart, you have to sort issues and be so much involved in a kid's life…"



Old Clubhouse and the kids there.


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