Daraja Academy now has an official football team (Kenyans refer to soccer as “football”)! Martin Husum Mikkelsen, a famous football trainer in his hometown Viborg (Denmark), agreed to volunteer at Daraja during his winter break. He has created a team of Daraja students interested in playing football and managed to build a strong squad for upcoming school tournaments.
Coach Mikkelsen has used students from MS Kenya, a Danish NGO on campus, to provide scrimmages against the girls. The first official match, however, is scheduled for Friday, February 5th against Nanyuki Secondary School.
We have footage of the first official Daraja pre-game press conference held by coach Mikkelsen and Relina, the team captain. Here is a clip:
Are you satisfied with the scores of your preparation games?
Coach: Totally! After a draw in our first game, we won our second game 2-1. It was awesome!
How did you find the team did during the games?
Captain Relina: The team was good! All players were doing their best.
But what will you have to improve to win your first official game on Friday?
Captain Relina: Every time we train we learn new things. We get better everyday; we will be better on Friday than last weekend.
What will be the team configuration on Friday?
Coach: This is top secret! But if you know me well, you can imagine that we will play safe, with 4 defenders.
The players seemed tired after the last game. Do you believe to be in a good enough shape?
Captain Relina: Yeah. You know, we gave everything during the game. But we will run a little for warm-up on Friday, it will be all right.
You have two amazing goalkeepers with Everlyne and Mary. Who will be on the field on Friday?
Coach: I haven’t taken any decision yet. But having each of them play a half of the game is definitely an option.
Captain Relina, what will you tell your teammates before entering the field?
Captain Relina: I will tell them to be good, to do their best! This way, we will win.
A prediction about the final score?
Coach: 3-0 for us!
Captain Relina: I think 3-1 for Daraja.
We will be sending a journalist on the field to provide exciting game updates so stay tuned!
I heard a quote while raising awareness for Daraja Academy last September that has stuck with me. Ted Church, a Daraja supporter from Boulder, Colorado remarked in an off hand way that, “all roads lead to Daraja.” The people that are caught by the inertia of this small girls school in central Kenya are nothing short of remarkable. Often they hear about the girls and ultimately end up joining our movement in very unexpected ways.
The following piece was written by Colin Grisel, who’s road luckily lead to Daraja. He has been working tirelessly to forward the Daraja Academy cause since his arrival in November. Originally from Switzerland, he has lived in Egypt and Nepal, utilizing the skills he learned while earning his master’s degree in Development. Colin has started a monthly Daraja newsletter while also making in-roads to Kenyan and international organizations. I really feel that he explains the tug-o-war that occurs inside of all of us, during this difficult selection process.
A TOUGH SELECTION
Daraja Academy is currently doing what I believe to be the toughest part of its work: selecting for the year to come, among a high pile of excellent but heartbreaking applications, 25 students. The school will have to turn down a number of brilliant girls in need of support: it is simply impossible to give a chance to all of them.
I hope this sounds tough on paper because I can confirm that it is also tough, in the field. Jenni and Jason Doherty, with the good advice of their outstanding Kenyan staff, must distribute the “yes’s” and the “no’s”. Because of your support, they are able to offer four-year scholarships, but this does come at the price of refusing help to others.
Today, Friday 29th, we met eleven amazing girls, knowing that there would be only one or two seats available in the Daraja Academy classrooms for students coming from this specific part of Kenya. Nine “no’s” to distribute, for two “yes’s”.
They all exposed us good reasons why Daraja Academy should accept them. Great marks at school, despite pasts full of stories about poverty, death, sicknesses, unemployment, prostitution, riots, refugee camps… always with voices full of hope and determination. Answering our questions with strength and courage, some girls, at times, burst into tears. This is a scene that I didn’t want to exist, but it is a reality that I needed to face.
Small girls, who looked fragile, proved to be so strong, so big, proved to know a lot more about the meaning of life than I do. Between other things, what these young women taught me today is exactly what I recently read in a Persian poem: “you have two ears and only one mouth, so listen twice as often as you speak.” They gave me a great lesson in humility that I wish to never forget.
I look forward to meeting some of these girls on campus come March! And I wish the best of luck, with all my broken heart, to the ones that I might not see again…