In the dusty and impoverished streets of Mathare in Nairobi, Kenya, dreams were mended and nurtured as the youth of the township celebrated the opening of the Mathare Football for Hope Centre today. The facility has brought a new sense of hope and belief to the youth of this area – a place where young people are confronted with so many social challenges.
The Mathare Football for Hope Centre will be run by the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA). This is the first centre to be opened outside South Africa. The inaugural centre was opened in Khayelitsha township, in the outskirts of Cape Town last year as part of the '20 Centres for 2010' campaign initiated before the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, a programme to build centres around Africa that will address some of the challenges faced by the continent, including education and public health.
For Silas Lukale the opening of the Mathare Football for Hope Centre has greater significance. Born in poverty-stricken area of Kayole, just a stone’s throw away from Mathare, Lukale is hoping that the Centre will empower many others like him and help to improve their lives.
"The reality is, when you come from here (Kayole), opportunities are very scarce. Sometimes there is a will, but without opportunities that doesn’t really help. I believe this will create such opportunities, it will inspire many people my age to start dreaming beyond their current circumstances. We are extremely excited about this centre and we are looking forward to visiting it on regular intervals," he told FIFA.com, minutes after playing an exhibition match at the new astro-turf pitch at Mathare.
Unemployment, crime, illiteracy, HIV/Aids and poor sanitation are just some of the many challenges facing the community in this area, where the average income is less than a dollar a day.
FIFA Head of Cooperate Social Responsibility, Federico Addiechi, heralded the opening of the centre. "This marks a new era not only for Kenya but for the African continent. FIFA made a commitment to the African continent to open these centres and today sees the realisation of that promise. This Centre is for the youth of Mathare. We certain that this place will be used to continue achieving positive change in this environment. I must say that there is no better deserving organisation to host this centre than MYSA, they have done a lot of good work for the Kenyan youth for the past two decades and we hope that this centre will further strengthen their work," Addiechi said.
Chairman of MYSA, Bob Munro, was upbeat about the possibilities that will be created by the Mathare Football for Hope Centre. "For the last 24 years, MYSA has provided hope to many young people. We believe that football is a powerful tool to communicate our message and that is where this centre will play a vital role."
Streetfootballworld project manager Jan Coetzee said: "We are proud to be associated with this project and this initiative to change lives. After seeing the enthusiasm in our centre in Khayelitsha, I think we now see the value out of these centres." The programmes at the centre will include the training of young people, educating youngsters about the link between sport and the environment and aiming to reduce instances of disease by organizing clean-up groups in the slums.