Slum Football Academy

Added On September 11, 2017

In Kenya, a football academy has become a beacon of hope for children living in Korogocho slum.

There, through sports, many of the children have experienced a different kind of life.

Lifestyle takes you there.

STANDUP(English): RUTH WANGARA, CNC correspondent
"Slums are usually characterized by vices such as alcoholism, drug abuse and even prostitution, where most of the youth get affected and give into peer pressure. But here in Korogocho slum, there is hope for the children as most of them engage in positive activities such as the one you are seeing behind me, by playing football. That not only helps them to build character but also helps them to enhance their life skills."

The ACAKORO Community Based Organization was founded in 2013 as an Austrian-Kenyan co-operation project. It has set up a therapeutic centre, where the children can make friends, receive better education and realize their talents.

Every day at about 4 pm, life buzzes into ACAKORO academy, as the children in Korogocho slum are happily preparing for football practise.
Many of them are between 8 and 16 years old. They all have experienced tough life as they sometimes have slept in hunger or out in the cold.

The children are divided into two teams, the under 11 boys team and under 18 girls team.
"I am 13 years old, after school the football helps me a lot. It helps me to relax. The coaches also teach us life skills and that is good for our life."
For some, such as 14 year old Veronica Awino, the academy presented an opportunity that she had never thought of.

Before joining the academy, Veronica lived in Kenya's biggest dumpsite where people ate food from dustbins.

"Life at home was difficult, my mother could not pay rent. Often my siblings and I were thrown out of school for lack of school fees. There was no food at home, so I decided to run away and joined some bad company at the dump, there we would collect papers to sell and get something to eat."
Veronica admits that the children she lived with at the dumpsite were engaged in unacceptable behavior and she knew she was in the wrong place.

"At the dumpsite, they would use drugs, go to night clubs, engage in sex...Many of them were not normal as they were mostly intoxicated in drugs or illicit alcohol, they claimed it relaxed them. But deep inside, I knew all these were wrong. I started to avoid them slowly as I knew all these bad things would come to affect me."

After a few months, the local children services visited the dumpsite and took them to a rescue home.

Many of them didn't like the place as they were already addicted to drugs. Veronica said she was happy as she could eat at least two free meals a day.

"The Acakoro academy came to the children's home and did a selection. I was one of the selected ones, they started to teach us football. I thought it was a joke, I didn't know anything about football, they told me to make a pass, and after short training I made it. We then went back to the rescue home. After few months, they came back and I was selected again along with another girl and three boys."
As the training started, more girls from the rescue centre were brought into the academy and made a team.

Veronica says they were trained under difficult circumstances for about nine months.

"So far many girls were picked, though not all were selected. We used to go and train at a school. We would train without boots, we would get pricked by stones and other things. We persevered until we learnt soccer. We finally went to play our first match in Mathare's another slum near here and we won 7 to 2, our coach was very happy."
Veronica says after the first match, she got more confidence and played more national level matches. After hard training, she was selected to play for the Under 18 national team.

"My friends told me that they had heard rumors that one of the girls in the slum academy was selected to play for the national team. I didn't pay attention because that was too big for me. After a while my coach called me and told me that I had been selected for the national team, and that I should continue to work hard."

Veronica received a scholarship and studies at Damascus Primary School.

Her teachers say she is among the top students in class.
She is older than most of the children in her class but Veronica says this does not worry her as long as the education she received can give her a brighter future

One of her coaches Sabina Wanja said she has a passion to help these children.

Sabina says through sports, many of the children have experienced a different kind of life. They now believe they can become better in the society.
"It doesn't make sense being comfortable in such a situation, being in a poverty situation. It makes someone seem like a no wanted person in the community. It makes one feel even when you go out, you are not part of the people you see out there. And what I believe is that we are all human, and we ought to embrace who we are. I want these kids to love themselves, to like themselves."

The slum academy, which has even played international matches, has given those slum children a chance to tour the world and interact with children from different countries.

"So the trophy you see here, it was for first place. We played in Austria 2015. we won it as first place and the final was between Barcelona and Acakoro. This one was from ligi ndogo, we won it from East Africa. All East Africa teams like Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania were there. It was good motivation. Then here is for under 11, last year 2016 and we also won it."

The football academy provides school fees, books, uniform and sports items for all their team members and offers at least one meal a day.