Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kenya's Mathare United Inspires

The Kenyan election crisis was one of the most talked-about news stories of 2008.
The political, economic, and humanitarian crisis that erupted in the East African nation cost over 1,000 people their lives and displaced close to 250,000.

A year later, things haven't gotten easier. Many are still displaced and ethnic violence is still only a dispute away.

Still, there was something to revel in this past November when the Mathare Youth Sports Association's (MYSA) adult team Mathare United won the Kenyan national championship.

Mathare is one of the largest slums in Nairobi, Kenya's capital city. It houses close to 500,000 in an area without sanitation, running water, electricity or trash collection.

David Goldblatt, the wonderful author the best-selling book on football history, The Ball is Round: The Global History of Football, traveled with the team to Muhroni in the Western Kenyan highlands, where they faced Agro Chemicals, the works team of the local sugar plantation. Mathare United needed just a draw or better from the game to win the Kenyan football league for the first time in their history.

His account makes for a wonderful tale of redemption and the human spirit. Please check out the BBC story of his travels and make sure to listen to the podcast for a more in-depth view of life in Kenya and Kenyan football.

As Goldblatt, puts it after Mathare clinched the championship, 'The Mathare players celebrated, danced and sang and the home crowd decided to join in too and flooded the pitch. On the team bus back to the hotel, thousands of texts seemed to arrive on every player's phone, as Mathare and the other slums of Nairobi celebrated. Despite the poverty and the spectre of ethnic violence, Mathare United's triumph is testament to the amazing talents and energies of Kenya's poor.'

Please make sure to check out this wonderful story.

1 comment:

Bats said...


I need to get the rights to use the Mathare United's logo in a FIFA 2010 magazine I'm publishing. Any suggestions as to how I can contact the team?