Kenya – Soccer Tournaments Providing Opportunity
At the AMURT-sponsored youth resource centers so many activities take place, such as drama, rap, dance, volleyball, and classes in computer software and language, but it is the soccer program that has generated the most excitement and participation.
Each of the nine centers across Kenya hosts soccer programs that attract talented young athletes. Practices and team meetings give our peer educators a chance to meet with teams in small groups sessions to talk about safe sex, distribute condoms, and discuss HIV and AIDS with players on an individual level. The eventual tournaments provide a venue for communication of these messages to the masses of people that come to watch (up to 4,000 enthusiastic spectators attend an urban game). Peer educators are given control of the PA system during matches, providing entertaining commentary during play and using game breaks as a chance to talk about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. Those trained in first aid also provide medical attention to players if needed, and tournaments are officiated by referees from the Kenyan Football Association.
One of the best ways to mobilize youth for these tournaments is the cash prize offered to the top teams. Tournament winners are awarded 20,000 Kenyan shillings, or about $250 U.S. dollars, and are assisted by AMURT in developing ways to invest the money in income-generating activities.
The soccer program has provided our youth with several secondary opportunities. In Likoni, the AMURT-sponsored team was invited to participate in another tournament for a chance to win more money due to the quality of its play. And the Komango peer educator group seized the opportunity to sell snacks at the games to raise money for investing in a village cinema that has since become highly successful.