It is with a great sense of pride that I bring you the belated match
report from the first ever competitive game of the recently formed St.
Bernadette`s and St. Mary`s 1st XI versus MICC Altar boys which ended
3-3, after a thrilling encounter.
Even teams under the great stewardship of some of footballs coaching
icons like Del Bosque, Guardiola and Ferguson did not manage 3 points
on their first outing so we can’t be too disheartened with the result.
For us it was a complete game of firsts. The first time we had stepped
onto a full-size pitch. The first time we had worn a proper kit out in
public. The first time we had played for 90 mins. The first time we
had spectators and the first time our opposition wasn’t ourselves
(though it often seemed like it).
It wont be necessary to dissect, disassemble and relive the full 90
mins in this post as that would somewhat miss the point (or the
goal?). The relevance and significance of this game was a bit deeper
than that but I’ll try and put into words the excitement, energy,
screaming, cheering, shouting, nail-biting and dancing that was
erupting all around us in this tiny school in Kenya, and to be part of
it was simply – awesome.
After two weeks silence, our neighbour Mtepeni Primary School finally
agreed to let us share their pitch which was a massive bonus, so now
it was simply a case of finding an opponent, a time and a date. George
from GLO and Sylvestor from the school took care of the fixture list
and I focussed on training and picking the team from the 24 boys or as
Mamma Tuita from GLO put it ” Andrew, it’s time to seperate the cream
from the milk”. A tough job.
The previous Sunday myself and a couple of the pre-teens embarked on a
reccie of the pitch in the form of a Sunday run joined by a couple of
the other keener players. I was pleasantly surprised to find a large,
reasonably flat expanse with a 95% covering of grass and proper goals.
From what we were used to it was like staring at The Emirates. OK,
We assembled at the school in usual time and set off carrying the
usual bags of water supplies, shorts, kit and balls. No oranges
though. Fail. It`s a beautiful walk through windy dusty tracks, lined
by sideways glancing goats, leashed cattle and free roaming chickens
through the chest high maize fields. Famalies in their shambas would
stare at us open mouthed as the orange and black army marched through
their farms. Old men on bikes rang their bells to part the flanks and
ride through on their fully laden bycycles asking us who the opponents
were. Waves of small children joined our ranks with fresh mango and
pawpaw stains smeared their T-shirts and sticky hands. They kept on
jumping out in ambush of us from the maize. As we swelled in numbers
so too did the excited chatter of fantasy football. It was a real peek
into the rural life my team are from.
Our opponents were ready and waiting for us pitch-side and so it seems
were half the village. Having recruited a bit of our own home support
in our new volunteers Jana and Annie, older kids from GLO and with Mr.
Kennedy supporting as always and busy setting down markers for the
pitch this was shaping up to be an epic Super Sunday encounter.
I was happy to referee the game (as was their coach might I add as he
was still dressed in his smarter church going wear) and stood there in
the middle of the pitch to blow the whistle for the start of the game.
It was one of those moments where I found myself needing to pinch
myself. This was exactly the kind of moment I dreamed about when
thinking about volunteering at the GLO and taking the football
training with these boys.
The game was played in the kind of spirit you would expect in any
professional league in the world. Commitment in the tackle,
competition for every ball and goal celebrations that involved an
entire team. It`s fair to say that St. B and St. M were playing catch
up for the majority of the game as the scoreline constantly favoured
our fearless opponents but given the number of missed chances for a
team constantly camped in the opponents goal then 3-3 was a fair
result. Both teams deserved a share of the spoils this time, and was
glad the time was up when it was. It meant there were more smiles at
the end of it. As the saying goes ‘The boys did me proud’.
The only problem left to solve is what to call our orange army as
frankly St. Bernadette`s and St.Mary`s FC doesn’t really roll off the
tongue. But then you are hit by one of the oldest poetic conundrums in
history. Nothing rhymes with orange.