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Game 40 : Tonanoka Park, Mombasa Kenya

Game 40 !! HALF WAY THERE !!!!!! Thanks again to all those friends who supported me to come to Africa through justgiving and in other ways. The 13 incredible games played here are dedicated to you. Thankyou X

Skin tone can tell you a lot about people in Kenya. That’s according to my mate Richy Ndongo whose the chef where I’m staying. Richy was my guide yesterday as we headed out into the steaming hot madness of Mombasa at 3pm. Pimped up matatus swarm everywhere . These are mini-bus taxis driven at crazy speeds, with a guy hanging out of the side door shouting at folk to get in and taking fares. The first one we got in had two TV’s blasting out African pop vibes at ridiculous volume. It was an experience so it was 😄

We made our way to Tonanoka Park. This sandy pitch was deserted when we got there. We spotted some lads walking by and asked them to play. Within minutes, as had been the case throughout my journey here, we had more than enough for a game . 7 v 7 in the blazing sun.

Richy, who has very dark skin, pointed out that the lighter skinned lads who’d gathered to play today were known as Swahili. They had no tribe, had always lived in Mombasa, came from Arab decent and only spoke English and Swahili. One look at their clothes and footwear told Richy that they came from rich families. He said it was not usual for Africans like him to mix with Swahili’s this way.

As always, footy was the great equaliser . A bleached white bloke from Stacksteads, a black bloke from the Luos tribe of Kisumu (northern Kenya ) and a bunch of Swahili lads with fairer skin from Mombasa just kicking a ball about and having the crack for an hour.

A great game and some great players !! Little Ali Sombwana was everyone’s man of the match . He was not only a fearless keeper during the game, but after in the penalty shoot out, and also the coolest taker of a penalty you’ve ever seen. I was on Ali’s team and we were blessed with talent. Ali and Muhammad Faiz were electric up front. Both technical and quick, though a bit greedy.

For them, the tall, older Shariff Jaffar was a constant threat, though the much smaller but very tough Ali Amed dumped him in the sand more than once. All the lads could play and it was end to end stuff. We’d begun to draw a crowd . Richy, who was struggling after not having played for years, notched the winner for us - 5-3.

The penalty shoot-out after went to sudden death with the amazing Ali pulling off worldy saves to bring his side victory. Walking away from the field , Richy told me it was a fact of modern life in Kenya that Swahili’s and African’s were not encouraged to marry or even mix, even the children. What a silly bloody divisive idea, no doubt driven by power mad politics and corruption.

Later we visited Ferehe town where I gave my last football to a bunch of kids from a poorer area who thought it was Christmas Day! There were huge smiles and singing all around now that they had their own ball.A real microcosm of life and division here in one afternoon, and the power of football to bring joy and people together .

One love

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