David would have been very proud of our football team this afternoon. He coached them during his visit and they had an extremely successful afternoon at the local “stadium” today – played two won two. (Both on penalties. It was just like Euro 2012). As ever it was a highly entertaining afternoon for many reasons.
The stadium is a large area of grass about twenty five minutes walk up the road to Kosele from our place. As previously blogged the road is in an ‘interesting’ condition just at the moment. Strewn with potholes which are currently full of water. The ‘river’ running down the side of the road creates a couple of deepish fords at different points and is host to a lot of insect life. The stadium is, fortunately, at a higher level than and slightly away from the road so it actually has a decent football pitch. When we arrived, (at about 2.45 pm), the pitch was home to a number of sheep and cattle.
David had set up a match between our school and the local primary school in Kosele. It was a shame he had to fly home yesterday and so was unable to see it for himself. We were accompanied to the stadium by our school’s coach, Mr Richard, who mustered everybody together once we reached the pitch and set the team off on an impressive looking set of warm up routines. I’m not sure if the main aim was to intimidate the opposition or make sure the lads were well honed and match ready. Either way it looked very professional. I did, at one point, worry that they might wear themselves out before the match. Our school pitch is about a quarter the size of the pitch at the stadium and the boys aren’t used to playing on a big space. (As it turned out my concerns were absolutely misplaced).
While the boys warmed up our young visitors were a big hit with the local children – especially the little ones who quickly launched into a frenetic game of chase the ball around with one of the footballs we had brought. All credit to Jessica, Daniel, Alex and Peter. They were brilliant with the children, playing games with them, learning to count to ten under the willing tutelage of some of the more confident kids and coping very well with being the centre of attention.
While this was happening funny things were happening to the goalposts. (Two tallish poles, more commonly used in house building stuck into holes on the goal line). The pitch looked a bit wide so it didn’t seem unreasonable to move the goal posts to reconfigure the pitch, (using the width as the length). Willing hands lifted the poles out of the holes they were in – and then carried them away to hide them in the bushes! I was a bit mystified by this until our teacher, Mr. Richard, explained that “they are Kosele’s posts”. Apparently we weren’t playing Kosele Primary School as originally planned. As most of the Kosele players attend the Seventh Day Adventist, (SDA), church, which meets on Saturday, not Sunday, he thought that the lads wouldn’t be available to play so had arranged a match with another school, Saye Primary instead. The Kosele boys had obviously finished church duties by the time we arrived at the pitch and had turned up for a practise anyway, bringing their goal posts with them. Mr. Richard suggested sending some of our lads back to bring our posts, but this would have meant the match started at about 4 o’clock. Instead we decided to have a three way competition with the three sides that had turned up, (us, Kosele Primary and Saye Primary).
The first match was our lads vs. Kosele, (winners to then play Saye Primary). Looking at the size of our players and the size of the Kosele team I began to wonder if they had played a few ringers from the village side. Because of our late start it was decided that the matches would be twenty five minutes each way. I have to admit I’m not really a huge football fan, but it’s different when you have turned up to watch your own kids. Ours were brilliant. They played with a lot of enthusiasm and held Kosele to a 0-0 draw. As there had to be a winning side, (to play Saye), a penalty shoot-out was arranged. The first Kosele player ballooned his kick over the crossbar, (or at least what would have been the crossbar if there had been one). We scored. The next Kosele penalty was brilliantly saved by our keeper, Calvins. We scored again. Calvins saved again. We won. Much jubilation.
Twenty minutes we kicked off again, this time against Saye. The teams were a bit more evenly matched this time, as both fielded a couple of older lads to make a more competitive game. I had to admire our lads’ stamina. They played their hearts out until the final whistle. It was a very free flowing match with good attacking moves by both sides. Saye scored the goal of the tournament with an amazing shot from close to the half-way line that left Calvins, our goalkeeper stranded. Our guys had the better run of play in the second half scoring two goals. Unfortunately one was disallowed so the game ended in a 1-1 draw and was settled by the now ubiquitous penalty shoot-out. There was a tense atmosphere in the crowd that gathered around the goal mouth. Calvins was, once again, an absolute standout and we won. Even more jubilation.
At almost any fairly formal gathering, (even at a football match), it is difficult to avoid being asked to make a speech if you are an attendant Mzungu, (white person). Our coach Mr. Richard gathered all three teams together and asked if I would say a word. He kicked off the end of tournament formalities by celebrating the fact that the matches had all been played in a good spirit of friendly competition and congratulated all of the players. These were very appropriate sentiments – it was a great afternoon. I then said how much I had enjoyed the matches and congratulated everybody involved. This was followed by introducing our four young visitors, who then had to introduce themselves. One of our visitors, Jessica, was a big hit with the lads and they asked her to say a prayer to round off the day. I don’t think I have heard such an appreciative response to a prayer for a long time.
It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Entirely and uniquely Kenyan and something I wouldn’t have missed for the world.