A huge billboard stands proudly at the Haile Selassie roundabout in the heart of Nairobi’s Central Business District- a testament to a mission by Kenya’s largest telco, Safaricom: Chapa Dimba Na Safaricom. The development pipeline of any successful sports industry lies in unearthing and promoting grassroots talent, which coaches can further mould and hone to feed local league sides, represent the nation across the globe and contribute to the development of the sport in general.
Chapa Dimba stands out and has shown the importance of what supporting football initiatives can do to growing the sports landscape in Kenya. By decentralizing games to the seven regions of Kenya, the tournament aims to alleviate one of the many challenges that our young sportsmen and women are marred by- inequitable representation and unfairness in scouting. While some regions are known to produce excellent players by the stream; casting the net to the whole country ensures that the next Victor Wanyama isn’t denied that opportunity, merely because he/she hails from a region in the country where such representation is lacking.
With the run-up to the finals of the tournament, The Dugout has kept and will keep score of the games that have thus far proven to be classy with players literally putting their best feet forward, showcasing their talent and technical ability with the dream of being spotted, rise through the ranks to some of the biggest clubs in the country; earn caps to represent the country in the U20 squad as well as win the multiple prizes up for grabs during the tourney with the epitome being a week long sports training camp with Victor Wanyama in London.
On Sunday, 26 February we visited Kenyatta National Hospital Grounds, the venue for the Nairobi County (Nairobi West) Regional Semi-Finals. Our first game started at 10 am with both teams testing each other, creating chances but failing to convert in the first half. South B United faced Al Swafaa FC in a game that offered bursts of brilliance and exceptional talent.
Spectators on both sidelines shouted instructions as the game wore on, trying their best to influence their best players. The nil-nil scoreline at halftime wasn’t inspiring and both team technical benches grilled their players changing tactics and pushing for new strategies. In the intense heat, players still had to keep a cool head and focus on the task at hand.
From a talent identification perspective, coaches look at three things;
- Speed – how fast is the player? can they transition from slow play to rapid counter attacks with ease?
- Ball Control – what do they do as they receive a pass? Stop a ball while you are tearing the turf on the wing and you catch a spotter’s attention.
- Mental Acuity – how does the player respond to coaches’ instructions? How quick is he in making decisions on the pitch?
We let the professionals do their work but we let our eyes do the talking in the second half. Spot. Spot the stars.
Two rapid goals turned the game on its head and soon Al Swafaa had players standing, arms akimbo. Disillusioned.
Maybe this was it. The end.
A famous football scout once said a good player on the pitch is like a beautiful girl in a room. You will see her at some point.
Star players can change games. All they need is that one opportunity When Al Swafaa pulled a goal back, the game reached new heights of intensity. Changing from the slow passing game to a fast pace with players attacking as a pack trying to break down the opponents’ defence. Minute by minute they kept attempting to change their fortune. Come-backs do happen. However, sometimes it’s just too late to salvage a game. Another goal by South B United took the tally to three goals to one and the game slowed down. The dying minutes were frantic when Al Swafaa got another goal. They only needed one more for a draw.
Too late. FT:3-2!
While fans celebrated with their players, the message was clear.
It doesn’t matter which side you are on; the cream always comes to the top.
Many have been here before, many have succeeded before. the quality of the pitch doesn’t matter.
Give a man half a chance, and he takes it.
South B United 3-2 Al Swafaa FC
Vapor FC 1-1 Slum Dwellers (3-4 pens)
Special thanks to Levi Orero, Wanjera Wanjira and Deryl Aduda.