Street champs Kenya win hearts and minds
It was standing room only at the mini stadium on Berlin's Mariannenplatz as Kenya and South Africa battled it out in the final of the Street Football World Festival 06.
There was a lot more to the occasion than just a football match, however. This was the culmination of a tournament that had given youngsters from 22 countries around the globe a chance to put their everyday troubles behind them and experience the magic of a top-quality international competition.
The people of Berlin went to every length to ensure the event ended on the highest of notes, joining forces with fans from the four corners of the planet to create a spectacular atmosphere for the two worthy finalists. Hip-hop music blared and the crowd roared as the stadium's South African and Argentine announcers warmed up for the match by reliving the highlights of an unforgettable tournament on the big screen.
Then it was time for the big kick-off. The first half action was largely restricted to the middle of the pitch as both sides desperately probed away in search of the all-important opener. But before the two teams knew it, half-time was upon them, much to the disappointment of a crowd engrossed by the dazzling skills on display.
Music and dancing made the break a mercifully short one as the high-class action resumed. Knowing the time had come to show their hands, the two contenders adopted a more attacking approach, and sure enough the goals soon came, with the South Africans striking first only to see their opponents hit back almost immediately.
History repeated itself as the clock ticked down with the South Africans retaking the lead before the men in green hauled themselves back into contention within seconds once more. The scoreline remained locked at 2-2 and it was onto the dreaded penalty shoot-out. After quickly establishing a two-nil lead, the East African side cut short their opponents' hopes of clawing back into the shoot-out when their keeper saved the final spot kick, ensuring the inaugural street football world title went to Kenya.
The presentation ceremony provided a perfect end to a perfect tournament, as the players from all 22 sides came out onto the pitch, put their rivalries to one side and embraced each other as if lifelong friends. And so the Street Football World Festival 06 came to an end. But just like its big brother, the FIFA World Cup, the tournament is here to stay and will make a very welcome return in South Africa in four years.