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Kibera Slum

I visited yesterday one of the most populated slums in Africa one more time. We left at the entrance of the neighbourhood, and I could instantly see a classic Sunday Football tournament going on. Boys formed teams under 16, seven vs 7 and on a field that made me feel ashamed of myself for complaining and criticising so much during my pro career spent mostly on top class pitches that resembled a bowling green! I was amazed by the horrendous conditions of the field but not once was it ever brought up by the players or used as an excuse – They just wanted to play!

I stood and watched the game for a while and around me there was, as usual, leather balls, plastic bottles, even homemade balls of all colours, in every condition imaginable (flat, soft, too big, too small, etc.) At this point, I might try to share some experiences and knowledge and keep it super fun for the boys, who didn’t care if they played in the slum or at the Nou Camp!

So we began. We started to pass the ball around; each player touched the ball seven times before giving it, and the poor guy in the middle was chasing the ball against ten players…he never stood a chance, but hey…that’s how rondo’s work! Just google ‘Real Madrid rondo’, and you will quickly realise what I mean! Well, at least that was the idea. However, the boys found it difficult to string more than three passes before the defender/chaser was able to intercept….I had to re-think things.

We then organised a quick team talk, and I offered to try to play the game ‘2 touches’- We did it for several minutes, but now I could see that the exercise was lacking a pure joy and motivation, something I only ever want to promote to any young person I meet.

Wow, 2 games in a row didn’t meet the idea that was in my head. I had to think again! So after I changed the rules and instructed them to try and play ‘1 touch’ football (with a maximum of 2 touches) because the field honestly wasn’t going to be consistent enough for strict 1 touch passing. This was quickly shown when I tried to demonstrate for the boys and as I controlled the ball, a rock skipped up and hit me in the face (it was funny), and the second time I tried, I fell in a hole…They all laughed, again!! Hey, we gotta be able to laugh at ourselves right?

Despite all of this, the boys tried so hard, but they just could not find the beautiful sense of playing fast, and so after several frustrated attempts, I got disappointed and bored! A little bit by them if I’m honest, but actually because I’m also a kid and I wanted us all to just have fun! And so I told them:

“Stop! Stop! Guys! I’ve been to several countries and cities in my life…I played this game called “Rondo” “Loquito” “Torito” etc and this one, in particular, is the most boring that I have ever played! You know why?? Because all of you are standing on your heels and cannot give 3 passes in a row and with all due respect, this is not what African Football is all about! Mbappe and Pogba play faster in Europe! So now, let’s play 1 touch and the circle we make will be formed by holding hands… Did you hear me? Do you understood?”

Well, the answer immediately was this 20-second video!

What did I learn?
“A motivated person/player or team is capable of achieving the impossible”

When you go back to your training, really focus and see if you and your team are capable of completing 20 passes in a row! Dot it, leave the defending chaser player dizzy!

With these guys, I would play against anyone! They do not know what excuses are -They need a coach who inspires and is a leader in helping them evolve! Thank you, Kibera for so much that you gave me.

See you next time!

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