Partially in response to a children’s feeding program being overwhelmed by ravenous teenagers, the Kibera Saints football club was birthed initially as a distraction but soon as a focus and a beacon of hope. Numbers grew, and local crime rates fell as football skills in tandem with a sense of belonging and purpose flourished. Police reported a drop in shootings whilst team betting and consequential physical beatings diminished. Within a few years, the senior teams climbed the local leagues and even the national divisions and did well; too well. Costs spiraled, transport, league and referees fees and mandatory compensation became unsustainable with current support and the difficult decision of rebirth had to be made. Let the older players fledge whilst starting an academy for the younger mainly boys.
Understandably many of the older players felt let down and made rumblings but some turned to coaching the new starts as their numbers and demand soared. In under a year over 100 turn out most weeks to a dusty rough school ground on the edge of Kibera to play and be trained and just belong. Noisy but focused whilst the coaches are transforming lives and providing hope and purpose and a distraction from a tough life in Kibera. Proudly wearing their sponsored strips with their name printed, the sense of joy is palpable whilst for just a moment the players are somebody and part of something.
Questioning the name change from Kibera Saints to Kenya Saints brought a sobering response. In away games, the removal of the slum label just gives that edge and raises heads; giving hope that there is life beyond Kibera.