It is no secret that football is a universal language that unites people all over the world from all walks of life and this has been the case for decades.
In Kenya, anywhere you go you will always find groups of people playing the beautiful game either on a well-manicured pitch, a dusty one or even just on the roads within the estates and there will always be a crowd, whether large or small cheering them on.
Like myself, there are hundreds of people who grow up with the dream to pursue a professional football career and due to factors such as poverty, lack of materials and proper football structures; it does not come to fruition.
Due to such, Africa’s leading gaming platform SportPesa, founded a program in 2016 dubbed Kits for Africa, which aimed to provide donated kits to help teams in the region as they train and strive to make something out of the passion they share for the beautiful game.
The kits are provided by the company’s former international football partners such as Everton FC and Southampton FC from the English Premier League, Championship’s Hull City FC and Serie A’s Torino FC.
Since its inception, plenty of teams have received surprise visits from SportPesa and something as simple as their appreciation for the kits makes all the difference in their quest to continually develop and better football in the nation by providing such opportunities.
There is no criteria teams had to meet in order to be considered for the kits and the worthy initiative and this was proven by a visit to where some of Kenya’s most notorious criminals call home, the Kamiti Maximum Prison.
As the year 2019 came to a close, SportPesa together with former Mathare United FC player Tedium Rodgers, who had just completed a 19-year stint at the prison for a robbery gone wrong in 2000, came together to visit the inmates to provide kits for their football program.
Rodgers is widely considered as the founder of the football program within those walls and aside from him, he testifies that just being able to play football while inside did so much for his and plenty others rehabilitation process.
“I am very happy that I can come back here and offer hope to all of you through these donations courtesy of SportPesa.
“This was my home for almost two decades and I cannot forget you. As you can see, it’s not only me who remembers you and it makes me happy to see that all of you are still actively involved in football even after I left,” Rogers stated.
The prison has seen massive improvement since the football program was introduced and have since started rugby and volleyball leagues that go a long way in helping with the rehabilitation.
Just at the sight of the jerseys and balls, lots of the faces of the inmates lit up and they expressed utmost gratitude and appreciation for the gifts that will continue to provide a constructive distraction as they continue to serve their time.
“I hope that all of you seeing me here today makes you not lose sight of what is important in life. Being in here doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world.
“I pray that all of you will keep playing football and getting encouraged because you never know what the future holds for any of us,” Rogers added.
Kamiti Prison boasts inter-cell football competitions that keep the inmates occupied and gives them something to look forward to throughout their duration behind bars.
“I am so grateful to SportPesa for remembering that there are also people in here who appreciate the game and they chose to come and gift us with all this football kits.
“Life in here can really take the best out of you but with programs such as football and well-wishers like SportPesa, we have something to look forward to and this is the best day we have had in a very long time,” Stitches, an inmate serving a life sentence offered.
Former Athletics ace now turned Kenya Prisons Service Sports Coordinator, Catherine Ndereba led the SportPesa team in the kit donation and was well pleased with the efforts made in ensuring the inmates feel rehabilitated in a commendable manner.
“It is days like these that make me very proud of the work that we do. Seeing Teddy come back and provide hope to all of you is something that should not be taken lightly.
“I’m grateful to SportPesa for choosing to come and provide to the teams here and ensure that they have proper kits and even shoes as they continue their football rivalry,” Ndereba added.
SportPesa also visited the Nairobi West Prison and aside from that they have traversed the nation providing kits in Kakamega, Mombasa, Nakuru, Machakos and many other areas in their continued efforts to aid in the development of football in the nation.