Inside the Brain of a Teenage Soccer Genius

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Kenya Soccer Project: In My Words

"Football is not just a simple game. It's also a weapon of the revolution." ~Che Guevara 

From Che Guevara, the South American Marxist revolutionary with a soft spot for football to the committed members of the Trinity Youth, the founders of the Bundesliga super power Borussia Dotrmund, we are all catalysts of the beautiful game. We recognize the power and awe that this sport brings to spectators, players, referees, critics, writers and all other witnesses to the magic that occurs on the pitch week in, week out. With its global popularity, simple rules and incredible malleability, football is an ideal tool for empowering the youth of third world nations and giving an outlet of leadership and expression to those who are in need of it.

Sarah VP, Madi President, Lexi Communications Director and Founder
Growing up in the affluent city of Bainbridge Island, a pristine island that is a short ferry ride across the water from the innovative city of Seattle, it is easy to forget how small of a role you play in the universe. In America in general, I believe we abuse the political rights and social liberties that have been given to us from birth. If you are able to utilize every available resource that is out there, you will never suffer. Our idea of "hardship" is skewed.
Like many African nations, the historical instability of Kenya needs to be considered before we embark on the tale of Nehemiah FC. Kenya has been an independent nation since 1964 and, like many other nations in the region, had to shake colonial rule from European settlers before building its own independent republic. Since their independence, they have faced issues of corruption from their political leaders and intense political, economic and humanitarian crises as recently as 2007. International organizations have intervened and established many opportunities in terms of health care and education, but there is still room for improvement.

"Africa can only be transformed by enlightened leaders" ~Patrick Awuah

In January of 2012, Lexi Krueger, my Kenya expert, came to me with a project proposal. "They want a football club!" Her father was getting ready to leave for Africa to return to the farm that they helped establish and had resided on for several years in the Miwani District of Kenya. A recent missionary to the area through Nehemiah International had asked about the wants and needs of the people in Nehemiah and the surrounding villages. Their consensus was a football club, for like Che Guevara and the Trinity Youth, they recognized the power that football wields.
Lexi and I eagerly accepted the challenge and took on the project, knowing that although we are young (seventeen years old), age is but a number and it's a label we can shake off. Working with Shebby Mesharch, a resident of the farm in Nehemiah and a young (21-year-old) student himself, we were able to get a plan in motion. In the following months we skyped, Facebooked and emailed back and forth with our new club representatives on the farm, quickly establishing our hopes for the club. We didn't want this to be a short-lived endeavor, we wanted to create a permanent club that was self-sustaining and would continue to bring positive influences to the community. We wanted it to be a tool of unity for those who were unable to attend church on a regular basis or who didn't participate in other community events. We wanted it to be a connection between two communities in two completely different countries and a bridge between the people of two very different cultures. But most of all, we wanted it to be a way to educate the youth in both the United States and Kenya.
Team Practice
With these core values and set goals in line, we began to build upon them, gathering resources in both nations. By July of 2012, Nehemiah FC was holding regular practices and weekly friendly matches using donated equipment from soccer communities around the Seattle area. The club had grown at a staggering rate, going from just an idea to a reality in a few short months.

"I happen to be a stubborn optimist who strongly believes in the power of human potential. I believe that there is no limit to what you can achieve." ~Raynold Alorse 

There is a hidden beauty in the dusty, unpaved streets, overgrown, patchy soccer pitches and clear signs of poverty that were captured in the images of Nehemiah FC's friendly matches and practices. That beauty is potential, and even though now we sit back and think that we have come so far, we have barely scratched the surface.
Football is more than just a game and we are utilizing its potential. In the next five years we hope to develop a successful youth academy that not only provides the youth of Miwani with a physical outlet and a place of recreation, but with a safe haven where they can seek any necessity from mentors to medical care. By using sport as a tool to unify, educate and empower, we hope to create strong individuals who can one day give back to the world in the same way that we aim to now. As former Microsoft employee and university founder Patrick Awuah said in his talk at a TED conference in June of 2007, "Africa can only be transformed by enlightened leaders." Not only does Nehemiah FC hope to bring success, hope and unity to the communities we have immersed ourselves in, but we also hope to make a statement on human potential. We hope to defy the stereotypes that have been crudely and ignorantly slapped onto our generation. We hope to prove to the world that although we are young, and although we are inexperienced, we can do incredibly big things and last of all, we hope to set an example for other people like us who have dared to dream as well as one for those who have not yet recognized their potential to do amazing things.

To help us raise money to send the club staff from America to Kenya in 2013, please visit our Fundly site

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