Football with a difference
The recently completed World Cup that took place in Qatar has been rated as one of the best ever. No one can dispute the fact that football has become one of the biggest factors uniting nations or at least gathering them on one platform. When we were children, we enjoyed football for fun and we could play even at night during the full moon. Today, while for some countries football has become one of the major sources of revenue, there are many others also who depend on football for their livelihood. Be the players themselves, managers of the teams, coaches, referees, betting companies, suppliers of football-related equipment such as balls, jerseys, shoes, and medals, transport companies, as well as the hospitality businesses among many others.
We know players who came from a poor background, became stars in football, and brought economic transformation not only to their families but to their local communities. However, to reach those levels where football starts paying back is not easy at all especially when you are born and brought up in some of the remotest parts of the world.
When I arrived in Simanjiro and began going around our stations, I started observing how talented the young people were when they played football on dust village playgrounds. They had no event even on a minor scale to test or showcase their talents. It was then that the idea of starting a football tournament came to my mind in October 2019. First I looked for some of them who would help me to sell the idea to the rest of the teams. The next thing was what to compete for and thanks to Athenry Group from Ireland who through one of their volunteer nurse Ms. Louis, helped with trophies, balls, and second-hand jerseys that they got from their local town teams. We named the tournament St. Arnold Janssen Super Cup after the founding of the Divine Word Missionaries.
To my surprise, five teams from neighboring villages responded positively and the marches took off. The first finals were played on Christmas day 2019 and it was a big success. The following year 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic struck and we were not able to have the tournament. However, in 2021 we resumed again and instead of Christmas day because of the Children singing competition that was planned for the same day, we fixed the finals on 24th the eve of Christmas as the official date for the Cup Finals. This time, we had to buy new jerseys, trophies, balls, and medals for the winning teams. Six teams took part.
During the finals, we invited local leaders and politicians who promised to support with contributions to get even more rewards for the winning teams to come in 2022. As one would expect of politicians, their sweet promises came to nothing when the real moment came. We approached them months before the 2022 tournament began, which attracted 10 teams but none of them came through. So we once again had to settle for what we could afford to reward the enthusiastic winners. They say promises from politicians are as good as jokes that you can tell again and again when people forget them.
However, the tournament ended very well with a lot of improvement in terms of management and standards of the players. We decided to incur extra costs to get a professional referee and linesmen for the semis and final marches which added a lot of value to the games. We had no complaints about the results being different from the previous year. Hundreds of football fans came out to cheer. We also had a commentator who thrilled the fans with his comments.
I am personally so much encouraged by how the tournament has grown and am looking forward to showcasing our local talents outside the district and even getting them to major tournaments in the big cities.