By Andrew Bannister
It’s been just over three weeks now here at the GLO, and much like a football managers legacy I’m sure I will be judged over the results and the achievements whilst I’ve been here. But, hopefully not too harshly. Before leaving the UK I let slip that I was an avid Arsenal fan and a keen footballer and would love to play some football with the children whilst I was here having spied some goalposts on the field in front of the GLO on the website. The response was simply, why not go one better and get a team together at St. Marys and St. Bernadettes?

Andrew picks the teams

So, firstly by a keen footballer I should clarify my pitiful credentials. I play twice a week (if I’m lucky), 6-a-side with some mates in London. Before that I have no fallible stories of “Schoolboy trials for Palace” or “Once played semi-pro” or even “I was on the path to a promising football career before a cruel knee injury ended my dreams”. No such luck. I played football for my school team, and that was about as far as it went. I just love a kick around and have craved a game ever since leaving the UK two months ago. But, who doesn’t love football? And of course like the rest of the world Kenya is no different and are as football mad as any other nation (even if their national team has just been knocked out of the FIFA world Cup qualifiers), so getting together a group of enthusiastic, energetic, talented bunch of lads, every week for football practice was not going to present too much of a problem.

Watch out Fergie

After a meeting with the games teachers at the school, Mr Kennedy and Mr.Sylvester, kindly set up by George here at the GLO I was happily surprised to find a team sheet with 25 names of the older boys that are keen to play football. I didn’t know their expectations, and levelled with them. I’m not the next Jose Mourinho, I’ve never taken a football practice, I dont even go to football practice now, I just play for fun and I know nothing about youth soccer. I thought they might be a bit crest fallen, they might have been expecting Pep Guardiola following his Barca exit. My cards were on the table. The response? So what! You like football as much as they do. That’s all you need. Bottom line was that we all committed our own time, energy and enthusiasm to the boys and as long as it was returned we will do our best for them. I was excited to say the least. I think they just needed someone to take the bull by the horns with more spare time they had, as obviously their days were filled with the important task of teaching, and I was more than willing to take that first step with them and selfishly fulfil my own ambitions of coaching a football team.

Andrew shows the pupils

So with a few days to prepare and after a few late nights of trawling YouTube for youth soccer drills, skills and warm-ups and thinking hard about ensuring the drills have maximum participation, I put together an itinery that I thought worked and would start laying the foundations for our future soccer stars. So armed with some cheap footballs I picked up in Beijing on the way through to Kenya, a pump, a bag of football shorts that we use for cones, and a game plan I was faced with not 25 boys, but 45 boys! My first thought. I should have bought more footballs!

Happy Days

Since then we have had 6 practices on Thursdays and Saturdays. Saturdays are awesome because it means we have the school all to ourselves and we take the goals with us and get proper games on. Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Sylvestor still attend with full support and seem to enjoy it as much as the kids. In fact. Mr Kennedy could very well have one of those “used to play semi-pro” stories. We have whittled the number down to a more manageable 25 boys, and we have pretty much 100% attendance every week. We have more balls levied from the orphanage, a few cones, and even some kit that we have sorted through to find the right sizes kindly donated from a team in the UK, Westbury FC. We will be kitting the boys out for the first time this Saturday and they have asked for me to take my camera. I think it’s a proud moment for them all, and for me and the teachers. It is absolutely the highlight of my week where I can be one of the boys and share in the goal celebrations, the laughs and the friendships. And I get a whistle. It works a lot better than my Kiswahili!

Soccer School Kenya Style

As far as the search for the next Mariga goes? There’s certainly enough talent on the training field, will have to see where that gets us when we put it altogether in a game. The fact that I couldn’t ask for a more committed, keen and smiley bunch of lads appears on the face of it to be the ingredients of success so far. I just hope their coach is up to it.

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