Kits for Africa: How football wear initiative is touching lives

Kits For Africa is an initiative of betting giant, Sportpesa, that seeks to help bridge the gap of access to football kits by collecting jerseys and shorts from their partner clubs in Europe which are then distributed to needy football communities in Kenya

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Harambee Stars midfielder Francis Kahata hands over football jerseys donated by the Kits for Africa inititaive in his home town of Ruiru. PHOTO/COURTESY

The journey, to stardom, of any football player in Africa is often long, unwinding and uncertain. Everything about it is a major challenge that constantly threatens the basic idea of playing the game itself.

From lacking basic facilities such as play grounds, footballs and training/playing gear, it is often a tall order getting to the top.

A lot has been said about the existing Kenyan stories of success, from Macdonald Mariga’s journey to European glory to that of his younger sibling – Victor Wanyama, he of Tottenhma Hotspur, to Kenyan-born British rider Chris Froome.

The stories are legendary and encouraging but there is one yet-to-told tale of a difficult sojourn to football glory – that of Francis Kahata Nyambura.

Kahata’s is a story of sheer determination because he lacked, not just the football essentials like training gear, among others, but also life’s essentials for a young boy. It explains why, when he first interacted with the Kits For Africa initiative, he couldn’t help but think of how it would help his backyard.

Kits For Africa is an initiative by betting giant, Sportpesa, that seeks to help bridge the gap of access to football kits by collecting jerseys and shorts from their partner clubs in Europe which are then distributed to needy football communities in Kenya.

“I appreciate Kits for Africa administrators for sharing the donations in Ruiru. I remember playing with no boots and sometime bare-chested as I was growing up here. This is a good way to motivate the young talents and I hope they will work hard in return,” said Kahata when Kits for Africa recently distributed training kits through him in Ruiru.

Kahata explains that when he saw kits being distributed, he couldn’t help but beg that Kits For Africa collects some football wear to take to where he was raised.

“I was involved in distributing the kits somewhere and I thought this was a chance for my people here because I know the challenges they face having grown here. I am so glad that we are here today to facilitate these passionate football players to enjoy playing.”

Kahata and his friend Simon Mbugua, who plays for Posta Rangers and with whom they grew in Ruiru, hold that the simplicity of the initiative is what is needed to spur the growth of the game.

“Football in the neighborhood is faced by a lot of challenges. Some players give up mainly because they lack proper gear and opt to do other things instead,” Mbugua quips, alluding to the fact of how Kits For Africa inspires the hope of pursuing a football career.

Mbugua adds that so many youth were involved in societal vices because of lack of basic support to enjoy playing football, while urging the initiative to extend to collecting other football wear like boots and stockings, among items.

Since its inception, the Kits for Africa initiative has collected and distributed football wear to different parts of the continent.

The initiative was launched three years ago to encourage football players and fans to donate their old kit to sports-mad communities across Africa.

One needs to think of the story of the young boy who was inspired by Arsenal star, Mesut Ozil. The German donated football wear to the boy who had donned a worn out Arsenal jersey with hand-scribbled jersey number and name behind it.

Arsenal have a betting partnership, with Sportpesa, the initiators of the Kits For Africa programme.

The story’s impact has had phenomenal impact on the lives of several other players, who now believe that they stand a chance to be noticed.    

Others to benefit from this are coach William Muluya of Kariobangi Sharks, who also recently distributed Kits for Africa donations to the Dandora football fraternity.

According to Muluya, the initiative is a good way of nurturing football talent from the early stages within the local neighborhoods and would help keep the youngsters focused.

Kahata grew up in Ruiru under the care of his grandmother because his mother, who worked as a casual laborer in Mombasa, could not afford to live with him.

He honed his football skills on the dusty Ruiru stadium grounds, his determination seeing him rise through the ranks to become of Kenya’s finest football stars.

He is in Kenya’s squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations that will compete at that stage for the first time since 2004 and has established himself as a key member of the team.

Kits for Africa is part of Sportpesa’s commitment to building and developing grassroots football and the initiative epitomizes the sports betting giant as a community-focused organization that seeks to transform lives.