At the prompting of my eight year old son Jaden, I found myself on the futball field with the kids. You need to imagine a game that is so different and yet to similar to ours. The players usually range from our youngest orphan children at eight or ten years of age to the nieghborhood boys who hear the noises from the field and join in the fun. They are sometimes in their early twenties.
Skirts on girls and dress pants on the boys is not uncommon mixed with t-shirts and shorts. Soccer cleats have never seen this field. Barefeet, flip-flops, sandles, occaional dress shoes, and a pair or two of sneakers are the most common mix of footwear.
Very good skill along with a passion for the game are the norm on this field. In reality, it’s a ‘field of sorts.’ The soccer goals often collapse. The terrain has holes and little grass. An outhouse stood nearly in the middle of the field until it blew over in the winds a few months ago. The significant sized foundation of the outhouse remains in the field.
The ball can now pass over the foundation. Previously the outhouse acted as a defensive player for the team with ball posession. We are all glad the outhouse blew over even though it was convienent when playing; taking a bathroom break meant only a minute away from the game.
The field is also marked with occasional sheep droppings and cow dung. The dried remains are of no concern. It’s the somewhat or very moist droppings that mess with... mostly just the feet.
In reality, the game goes on regardless of how recently the cows have been around. An active soccer ball doesn’t allow much to cling to it, but the feet are another issue. Thus, the reason that Jaden and Anna and I prefer shoes rather than barefeet.
It simply seems ironic on so many levels. The skill is as good as that found on a Rangers field. The energy and passion for the game are as intense as found at a Manchester United match. The quality of the field, goals, and player equipment is non-existant. Yet these Kenyan kids find the same joy in the competition and comradery as is found elsewhere in the world... And there is never complaining about the conditions of the field.