Soccer is what put Kibera Girls Soccer Academy on the map. Abdul tells me about the first time his girls beat the boys, 2-1. “The boys were literally crying. They couldn’t believe it. But that is the day that girls started being respected on the soccer field in Kibera.”
Years later, the soccer program is still going strong. A graduate of Kibera Girls Soccer Academy got traveled to Paris for the 2011 Homeless World Cup where she kicked the winning goal for Kenya, beating Mexico 4-3 in the final game.
The high school team is pretty darn good themselves. The game on Sunday was supposed to start at 10. Teka told me he would swing by and pick me up, that he would call when he arrived. By 10:15 when he had not arrived, I just figured we were working on Kenyan time. At least we would see most of the game? He finally called at 10:50. He was standing outside with a man with a plastic bag with two beat up soccer balls. “Neither team brought a ball to the game. So I had to go borrow a ball from this guy. They think I am going to steal them, so he is coming with us.” The game started when we arrived an hour late, with a soccer ball.
Kibera Girls scored within the first thirty seconds. They are very athletic, and very well trained, passing and ball handling easily around their opponents. Toward the middle of the second period, the coach made three substitutions. As the girls were running off the field, they started taking off their jerseys. I thought maybe it was just to cool off, until I saw them hand the shirts to the girls waiting to go in. They only have 11 jerseys, just enough for the girls playing. One girl even took of her cleats, or boots as they call them here, and handed them over to her replacement who was waiting in socks to go in. Despite having less equipment than the other team, they dominated the rest of the game, although the score remained 1-0. A win was not enough. “We should have scored more goals,” coach Byrons said. “They relaxed as soon as they scored.”
At the end of the game, Teka gave the man back his two soccer balls and gave coach Byrons money for the girls’ lunch. In Kibera, providing lunch is the only way to guarantee your team eats. When I talk to people at KGSA about the importance of free education, they talk about the school working to delay pregnancy and early marriage, to eliminate child prostitution and eradicate poverty. I thought about the school, carving out time and space for these girls to play, to be in their bodies as powerful athletes, to be free. Sure, the goals didn’t have nets and the grass wasn’t well marked. But the girls spent a Sunday afternoon playing soccer in the sun. And in Kibera, that is nothing short of revolutionary.