Henfield Football ClubFive years in the planning, Henfield Football Club finally arrived in Kenya on 11th December 2009 for a ten day football tour/sports-cultural exchange tour of Kenya.
Equipped with football kit generously donated by the local community and the Henfield Football club, the 12 under-15 footballers accompanied by 4 adults, took advantage of the Virgin Airways generous luggage allowance to bring out the donations to be given to underprivileged youth in Nairobi and Nakuru.
At the request of the club, all matches in Nairobi were played against youth from Kibera including Kibera All Stars, Kibera Undugu and Serangombe Youth and in Nakuru against Rondo School and Nakuru U15s. Besides 6 football fixtures, the footballers visited Lake Nakuru National Park, home to xxx white rhinos and million flamingos and the spent two nights in the Masai Mara, at Fig Tree Camp, on the banks of the Talek River.
The visitors outline their experiences as follows:
'After checking into the Nairobi Club, an old colonial establishment in the centre of the city, and a quick lunch, it was time to head off to their first match against the Kibera Allstars. At the outskirts of Kibera, we were met by Vincent, a young energetic Kenyan, with whom we walked the three-quarter of a mile right through the heart of Kibera down mud and plastic bag alleyways, bounded by corrugated iron shacks on either side. En route to the football field, we visited a local community school, a small room atop a small round tower, where Vincent and his colleagues were helping younger members of the community to read and write. All this already, and the boys hadn't even kicked a ball, however they were beginning to realise that life in Kibera was very different to what they were used to in the UK.
The first football match was played on a small area of scrubland with grass two feet tall in one corner tumbleweed blowing in the goals, a drainage ditch in another corner, some very wiggly lines marking out the pitch and the occasion stone or boulder impeding the player's progress as he ran down the wing. And to top it all, some of the opposition played in bare feet! The players of Kibera showed passion, skill and determination and played some fantastic football beating the Henfield boys 9-1.
The next day, it was an early start as we headed out to Nakuru shortly after breakfast. After lunch, the team and supporters were taken to Rondo School where we were greeted like royalty, the local school children welcoming us, their guests, with cheering, clapping, singing and dancing. Here, the boys played 11 a-side football on a similar piece of scrubland where the lines of the pitch had been marked out with sawdust and stones. The Henfield team were supplemented with several local boys, all eager to show off their talents. However, it was another win for the Kenyans. A visit to the school building where clothes, football kit and educational materials were handed over, saw further dancing and entertainments before we headed back to the sanctuary of the Rift Valley Sports Club for the night.The following day the boys participated in a fantastic coaching session for almost 100 local boys and girls at the Afraha Stadium before playing in another 11 a-side match. Although the pitch had a grass surface, it was slightly long and concealed a variety of debris and several cow pats. Unscathed, the boys returned to the Rift Valley Sports Club defeated (2-1) but pleased with their coaching efforts.
Over the next two days the boys and supporters took a well earned break whilst they discovered the animals and flora of the Masai Mara. With experienced tour driver/guides at the helm, we undertook our game drives search of the Big 5. The highlight of the game drives was the cheetah or was it the leopard ? or the lion clubs that walked with their mum right in front of the minibus? each of the boys has a different story to tell. One of the most exciting moment was when a black rhino took more than a passing interest in our minibus.
Back to Nairobi for 3 more matches, one of which the Henfield boys did win, and it was time to hand over the kit to the Kibera coaches and players on the final day. A tree planting ceremony first to cement our friendship and symbolise what this trip was all about and then it was photographs galore the team we had just played posed with all the football stripes we had donated.'
The Henfield footballers created a lot of goodwill and brought a lot of joy to the people they met. The boys discovered a different side of life, experienced a different people and culture and went away more confident and mature as a result of the trip. An unforgettable experience in their words.