"Soccer is not taken lightly in the Kenyan slums"

March 2009 -

For many youth living in Kibera, one of the most infamous slum areas of East Africa, football keeps them busy. Abdul Hussein 'Cantar' is the sports program officer at Carolina for Kibera (CFK). He explains how football engages young players: "It's a powerful tool, it gives them an excuse to avoid peer pressure to take drugs or engage in theft."


Girls team from Mathare. Photo: Shoe4Africa

CFK is one of many non-profit organizations working in Kibera's ten-village settlement. The area was considered one of the worst hit in the post-election violence of December 2007. There is a considerable multi-ethnic population among its 1.2 million inhabitants. Half are under the age of 18. CFK runs several tournaments throughout the year. Cantar: "Our football teams include 42 different tribes and every team registered in our tournaments must come from this mix.  

Kibera has an hiv/aids rate of 45% and an endemic crime problem. Poverty is a reality forcing many parents to forgo education for the children. Football has become a source of income for some, which has allowed those that dropped out the chance to return. The Kibera Foundation started a coalition for peace and development to collaborate efforts within the community. The consortium works with a player from one of Kenya’s national teams, Joseph Kangata, to organize training activities and programs for all Kibera residents.

Toby Tanser is the director of Shoe4Africa. The charity holds running races, football tournaments, training camps and scholarships for female players. While there are numerous boys’ teams, there are only three for women. Shoe4Africa sponsors one girls’ team and collects donated running shoes to distribute among all the youth. In April 2009 they will hold a sports day for orphans living in Mathare, another slum in Nairobi where MYSA has been running a successful sports program since 2001.

Football in Kibera, according to Tanser, is about empowerment: "You must work together as a team. All questions of class, tribal issues, politics, and wealth are secondary to the success of sweat and hard work!"