Today's session was so amazing! I decided to organize a mini tournament for the boys. Each team represented a European team; Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Arsenal (the most supported team in Kenya!), Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Bayern Munich. The boys were divided into 12 teams of 5 players and we played 4v4 games in which if you won your 6-min game, you would proceed up the ladder to eventually play at the top field. Any draw was settled by a game of rock, paper, scissors, which was new to most of the boys. The talent on display was amazing! The kids are so gifted with the ball! It was amazing, seeing these kids playing on a dirt field, with no grass, uneven, layered with rocks, plastic bottles, sticks, stones and goat poo. The kids do not care, they are so excited to play! The games were extremely competitive and fun to watch. The eventual winners were Real Madrid and were so happy to receive captain armbands as their prize for winning the tournament!
Unfortunately, I had run out of the candy yesterday that I brought from the US, so I found a small shack selling Oreo cookies, so I purchased as many 6-packs of Oreo cookies as I could for the kids at the end of the day, cleaning out the store. Dishearteningly , most kids are only receiving 1-2 meals per day, so an Oreo cookie is quite the treat. I handed out Oreo cookies and wristbands to each participating player in the tournament and captains arms bands and SFA T-shirts to the top 3 teams.
During the past few days, I have become quite attached to some of these kids (Juma, Abbas, Mohamed, Emmanuel, Siadi), it is hard to be leaving on Sunday, but not before watching their regular Sunday league games.
Today began with myself and Ben discussing a strategy for implementing a grading scale for each of the local youth clubs here in Likoni, in order to raise the standards. The concept behind the grading scale is to improve the quality of each and every youth club here in Likoni, and in turn the clubs will have an incentive when they raise their scores, such as additional soccer shoes, soccer apparel, balls and coaching resources. Providing such resources for these young players is so critical to the further the child's enjoyment and development. The game provides hope and enjoyment to kids that otherwise have very little to look forward to each week.
What is needed most are soccer balls. Without proper equipment we can not ensure a proper training environment. With that said, the kids are so resourceful and as such many of the kids make their own soccer balls, by collecting the many trash bags that litter the streets and are held together by string. The youth clubs are also in need of cleats for the players. Unfortunately, when the best players in Likoni finally have an opportunity to be scouted for the next level, the common occurrence is that they do not progress since they are not comfortable wearing soccer cleats for the first time and it is hard for them to adapt in such a short period, such as a week long youth soccer trial. The coaches also do not have enough cones or pinnies to organize and conduct the most basic of training sessions for the players.
What they are not lacking is eagerness, optimism, a strong work ethic and talent. These young players see their participation in the beautiful game as a something to look forward too each week, and it shows. It has been a joy to watch them play.
If you would like to learn more about ways in which you can support the league, please send me an email at JField@SoccerFieldAcademy.com
One of the home-made "soccer balls" in Likoni.
The morning began with me attending the weekly LCFL coaches meeting at 10:00am (although we didn't start the meeting until 11:00am), (I am beginning to learn that "African Time" is very different to the rest of the world, it's much more laid back here.) This meeting is also the annual get together of the founder of the non-profit program, Ben Levey and the LCFL management team. We discussed many topics ranging from best practices, to improving the day to day operations of the program, and ways to better serve the kids that participate. One of the main take away's from the meeting's was establishing an elite standard for each club to attempt to get too. At the end of the meeting, I was able to distribute many items of coaching apparel that I had accumulated during the past few years that I was an Academy Coach with the Columbus Crew. The coaching staff were very appreciative... and they looked great!
After the meeting, myself and few of the coaches went for lunch together down the street. We ate Ugali (The Kenyan Carb), Mchicha (Spinach) and Nyama (Beef) and water to drink. The coaches love to talk about football, and especially the English premier league and specifically about Arsenal (whom most Kenyan's support). We had some very interesting conversations!
Following the meeting we attended training at the Likoni secondary school. As we approached the school, what seemed like a couple of hundred school kids were laughing and giggling at the sight of two approaching "Wazungu" (White Men). As we entered the school grounds, the kids surrounded us, and wanted to shake our hands and play with our hair. They followed us, to the area in which we play, laughing, giggling and dancing. We were eventually scolded by the teachers, for disrupting their recess program.
The training session with the kids was amazing! Their work ethic and their desire to learn is enthralling. The players were again anxious at first and as the session progresses they seem to let their guard down and we are having dialogue back and forth. "Should we have a big attacking shape or a small attacking shape?" I would say. Their response is "A big shape coach, a big shape is better for us!" The session began with this over-anxious kids, running 100kph like headless chickens, and the session finished with them playing with more composure and thought in their decisions!
Myself & Ben met with Hamisi, whom is one of the local coaches and he agreed to show us around the city of Mombasa. It requires us to cross the channel from Likoni to Mombasa town. Hundreds of thousands of people use this ferry each day to work inside the city of Mombasa. Two to four double-ended ferries alternate across the harbor, carrying both road and foot traffic. We visited the famous Mombasa Ivory Towers, we walked through one of the many gardens (which housed thousands of bats in the trees) and enjoyed an avocado and passion fruit juice drink. Then we made our way to Fort Jesus. Fort Jesus was the only fort maintained by the Portuguese on the Swahili Coast, and is recognized as a testament to the first successful attempt by a Western power to establish influence over the Indian Ocean trade. We walked through the Old town of Mombasa, which was dominated by mosques, as a large percentage of the population is Muslim. The final highlight was the market in Old Town, in which I saw lambs head (still with beady eyes and a fur skin) and Camels meat (with hooves and fur also intact)!
Training was unbelievable! The kids arrived early and wearing their Soccer Field Academy T-shirts (I think some of the player may have slept in them.) Each and every child came up and shook my hand prior to removing their sandals and preparing to play. Word had gotten around that Myself and Ben were in town, as double the number of kids arrived to have an opportunity to participate in the training sessions this evening. We carried on from last night's sessions and working towards playing with more patience on the ball and playing more side to side, rather than direct with no purpose. At the conclusion of the session, we handed out candy to every player whom was there, 80+ and SFA T-shirts to the players whom stood out from the rest!
It so far has been such a humbling experience, I cant wait for the next interaction with the kids.
James checked back in with his second update from Africa!
"I woke up early this morning, and met with Ben Levey to discuss the strategy for the 1st round of evening training sessions. In preparation for the session we met at the LCFL office to discuss the logistics of the session for the evening. I met with Abbas (LCFL secretary) and Hamisi a young up and coming youth coach for the LCFL to discuss the content of the session and how we would deliver and execute the session effectively. Hamisi played in the LCFL when it first started in 2011 and he shared with me how it has impacted his life and his younger brothers life so positively during the past few years.
At 2:30pm we left the LCFL office, and walked through the streets of Likoni with 28 balls, 80 bibs and 200 cones. The 30min walk is a regular journey that the LCFL coaches take everyday to the fields. We arrived at the Likoni secondary school and began to set-up, one hour ahead of time, and try to "wow" the kids and coaches before they arrived with an organized field and pumped up balls. The purpose of tonight's session was to have my first interaction with the players, and create an opportunity for coaches to observe the session and implement some of the ideas and concepts into their own training sessions.
All of the young boys (approx 50 players total) traveled to the fields directly, after school ended at 3:00pm by foot (some up to 30-mins away). Most of the players do not have cleats, so they remove their sandals and play barefoot. As the kids arrived, I greeted them in "Swahili" with the word "Mambo" which means "How are you doing?" and the normal response back from the kids is "Poa", which means "cool".
We decided that I would work with a group of twelve U12 aged players and for the coaches to observe my session and try to mirror the exercises and the concepts (with the help of their assistant coaches). During the session the kids seemed nervous to be coached by a "Mzumgu" which translates to "white man". It was at times difficult to communicate with the players, as not all spoke English very well. So I used a player named Saidi to assist me with communicating to the other players in Swahili. As the session progressed from exercise to exercise, the players became more comfortable and we seemed to make real progress. Most of the players are very talented individually with the ball, although they have a very limited understanding of the game, positioning and awareness.
At the conclusion of the training session we brought all of the kids together for a debrief and to hand out some SFA t-shirts for the most improved players during the session and to also hand out candy to every player. By the look on their faces, many of them had not eaten candy in a long while. We had to end the sessions at 6:15pm sharp, and before it started to turn dark in order for the kids to return home safely (they all walked).
After a long day out in the sun, I returned home on a piki-piki (a motorbike taxi) to a couple of Kenyan Beers (Tusker) and I am excited for tomorrows events, which will include a coaches meeting at the office in the morning and a coaching session in the afternoon."
Check back regularly for more dispatches from James!
Our own James Field is currently in Likoni, Kenya, imparting his years of soccer wisdom to the Likoni Community Football League and its coaches and players. Throughout his trip he will be sending home some dispatches, which will be shared here.
"Sunday, March 12-
The day started early after an exhausting two days of travel to Likoni, Kenya. Morning began with coffee and the company of some hungry monkeys that we kept at arms distance with whistles and some yells. They had a keen interest in joining us for breakfast.
We both hopped onto a motorcycle, known here as a "piki-piki", their form of a taxi with a driver that took us to Likoni secondary school where the LCFL games were taking place. We arrived to watch the U12s play. The match was interrupted for 5-mins as the coaches cleared the cows, whom had wandered onto the fields.
I was astounded that they didn't play with any boundaries, though the players, coaches and referees were well aware of when the ball was out of play. A majority of the kids did not wear soccer cleats and instead played in their bare feet. when we spoke to the coaches they informed us that their was simply a lack of shoes available for the kids.
Following the U14 matches, we decided to go with "Abbas", the LCFL secretary for something to eat at his favorite local restaurant. When I say restaurant you're probably picturing something like we have back home, a fancy building with nice tables, chairs, and a large menu. That was not the case. It instead consisted of a couple, whom were serving limited food options from their house. On our 25-min walk through the Likoni neighborhoods it was extremely hard to see the horrific living conditions of the people of Likoni. One thing that stood out for me above all else was the amount of trash that was left in front of the residents houses and on the streets. Apparently it is periodically scoped up by the private owner of the land or property and then burned together with other trash and then left in that same pile. There seems to be no reliable city refuse collection.
Today happened to be the day that the local senior teams were playing in their final tournament game. It was organized and funded by a local politician in an effort to be in the front of people's minds as the election approached. The match consisted of 2,000 people whom all came together to cheer on one of the local teams. Every time one of the teams scored, the fans invaded the pitch and officials had to escort them off the field again.
Tomorrow, I will be running a coaches education session for all of the local soccer coaches within the community of Likoni."
Check back soon for more updates from Kenya, and for information on how you can help contact James, or visit LCFL.org!