Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

World Cup fever - when foresters go footballing

Let’s get right to it. My name is Tim. I am a forest volunteer. And yes, I will admit it: I am from Canada.

This admission brings with it a number of consequences. Most of them involve ham and maple syrup and need not be discussed here. But one consequence that cannot be ignored is that, come World Cup Season, my interest in soccer (okay, “football”) tends to increase from entirely non-existent to, well, just mostly non-existent. For most of my life, I have blamed the sport of football itself for my lack of passion for the game. But then, one Saturday afternoon in Shimoni, I decided to go to a match.

-- The Shimoni Football Team --

It was, let’s be clear, a huge game. Shimoni versus Wasini, in the league quarter-finals - Kopa and Hamisi (two of our tour-guides-to-be from Friends of Shimoni Forest) had told us all about it over a week earlier. I clearly wasn’t the only one to get the message, as by the time I arrived the field was completely surrounded by spectators. Squeezing in to get a decent view looked like it would be a daunting task, but before long I was greeted by a cool young guy named Abdul, who led me over to the spot he and his friends from Shimoni Secondary School had staked out. It was a great vantage point to watch the match, and an even better way to get to know some people I may not otherwise have met during my time here.

-- Our partners, FSF, also have the footballing bug --

In the end, Wasini won the match in a penalty shootout. Not the fairytale ending I’d hoped for – but I’d caught the bug. The next weekend, I was back, this time to watch Abdul and the rest of the secondary school team take on Chwaka in an elimination match of their own. The game was just as close -- but this time Shimoni pulled off the victory, 1-0. Naturally, there were a few minutes of pandemonium at the sound of the final whistle – but once the celebrations finally settled down, we were able to get some great pictures of the victors.

Watching the matches was a ton of fun, of course, but they proved to be just the beginning. Later in the week a couple of us were invited by Abdul to play with the team at the beach. Of course, on arrival we learned that “play” meant “practice”, and practice meant an intensive 90-minute physical training session... but ridiculously sore calves aside, it was another awesome experience. And since then the team has contacted Rachel (our Shimoni Community staff) about working with GVI in the future - and to start things off, they’re working on arranging a friendly match between Team Shimoni and Team GVI to be held (we hope!) this coming week.

There are a couple of ways of looking at this. In one sense, the Secondary School Team will all but assuredly be the winners; probably by ten or twelve goals. But in another, perhaps more uplifting, and at any rate certainly less embarrassing, sense, the real winner is Canada -- for during the last few weeks, one of her many football-ignorant citizens has learned that, actually, it’s a pretty cool sport after all. David Beckham notwithstanding.