Football for Hope in Nairobi

9 September 2010

In the dusty streets of Mathare in Nairobi, Kenya, dreams were nurtured as the young people of the township celebrated the opening of the Mathare Football for Hope Centre – the second of 20 such centres being built across Africa as a legacy of the 2010 Fifa World Cup™.

The facility has brought a new sense of belief to the youth of this area – a place where young people are confronted with social challenges such as unemployment, crime, illiteracy, HIV/Aids and poor sanitation.

This is the first centre to be opened outside South Africa. The inaugural centre was opened in Khayelitsha township on the outskirts of Cape Town last year as part of the 20 Centres for 2010 campaign initiated ahead of the World Cup.

The programme aims to build 20 centres around Africa that will address some of the challenges faced by the continent, including education and public health.

The Football for Hope centres will feature football mini-pitches along with classrooms and health care facilities, providing young people with access to counselling, health and educational services.

For Silas Lukale, the opening of the Mathare Football for Hope Centre has great significance. Born in poverty-stricken area of Kayole, just a stone’s throw away from Mathare, Lukale is hoping that the Centre will empower many others like him and help to improve their lives.

“The reality is, when you come from here, opportunities are very scarce. Sometimes there is a will, but without opportunities that doesn’t really help,” Lukale told on Saturday after playing an exhibition match on the new astro-turf pitch at Mathare. “I believe this will create such opportunities, it will inspire many people my age to start dreaming beyond their current circumstances.”

The Mathare Football for Hope Centre will be run by the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA). The centre will help MYSA its leadership training, environmental clean-ups, HIV/Aids awareness campaigns and other community-oriented activities.

Fifa’s head of corporate social responsibility, Federico Addiechi, said there was “no better deserving organisation to host this centre than MYSA. They have done a lot of good work for the Kenyan youth for the past two decades, and we hope that this centre will further strengthen their work.”

MYSA chairman Bob Munro was upbeat about the possibilities that will be created by the Mathare Football for Hope Centre. “For the last 24 years, MYSA has provided hope to many young people. We believe that football is a powerful tool to communicate our message, and that is where this centre will play a vital role.”

Jan Coetzee, project manager of Streetfootballworld, a partner in the 20 Centres for 2010 programme, said: “After seeing the enthusiasm in our centre in Khayelitsha, I think we now see the value out of these centres.”

Six further centres are due to be completed in the next four to five months in Namibia, Mali, Rwanda, Ghana, Lesotho and Mokopane, South Africa.