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Games 34 & 35 : Njoro Solomjinga, Tanzania

These two games will live long in the memory . Real tales of the good, the bad the ugly and ultimately the better. I wanted to get into the heart of one of the Moshi villages for a game . As luck would have it, I bumped into the gentleman that is Donald Machange from the last game as I , and a few friends who fancied a game from our guesthouse -Sam, Jaheda, Toni and Mulenga - walked through a blisteringly hot market day near the centre of town.

Donald suggested we try near Moshi railway station for the game . Reaching this long disused station, Jaheda, Toni and Mulenga decided not to go any further because of the heat. Donald, Sam and I carried on over the tracks and down into the village of Njoro Solomjinga.

We walked around for a while until we came to a street near the market. This was the spot. I chucked the jumpers down on an uneven bit of ground near a couple of shops and we all cajoled people into playing, old and young. Sam, a big guy from Northern Ireland who didn’t even like football, a local bloke called Hans Rubin and two small boys were on one side, the other was made up of Donald, myself , a young kid called Ezekel and Hilary Machang. A 4 v 4 on one of the worst pitches ever . Slowly but surely all the village began to come out and watch. There was a lovely neighbourhood community and family feel to the afternoon , and much hilarity when the tall Sam kept losing his footing on the treacherous surface. Hans for them was greedy for goals and , despite having both me and Ezekel in the pegs, and Donald scrapping for his life, we quickly went down 4-0. Hilary pulled one back for us, but the general feeling was that he was high as a kite hence the sporadic performance !

They got another and at 5-1 down we stopped for half time. This is where things turned a bit bad and ugly . I tried to buy water for everyone but was quoted well over the odds by a bad tempered guy on the make , then 2 older lads turned up and the taller clever dick one picked up the ball and tried to sell it back to me !!

I couldn’t believe what happened next. Donald, Hans and another lad who’d joined us Jamaal ( a Kilimanjaro expedition leader ) rallied around us, telling us whatever happened we were safe and they would protect us from harm because we were their brothers.

Donald very coolly got the ball back off the main mouth-piece by asking for a pass. He gave me the ball and whispered in my ear that we should go because he didn’t trust the 2 aggressives not to go and find some mates and kick off with us all. What a shame 34 abruptly over because of a pair of numpties. It had been a real laugh and a great spectacle for the village too.

Game 35 followed straight on we walked away from the village a stream of around 30 kids followed us. It was just amazing ! We reached the village basketball area, turned around and what seemed like hundreds of smiling shiny eyes were staring back at us. I looked at Donald and, without saying anything he coolly ( again ) divided the lads up into two teams of 11 ( which swelled to 14 a side later) and off they went. I learnt later that the ball I gave them today was the first real ball that village had ever seen , and the first these kids had ever played with. One of the young lads Gifi John showed me the ball they usually played with ..made of banana leaves, litter and string. Unbelievable. It was hard to keep track of the score but no-one cared. The sheer delight on these children’s faces to be playing with a real ball is something that me and Sam will remember forever. After the game we bought the kids some sweets..they were unbelievably well mannered ..queuing up to get their ration off Donald and Hans ...several of them came up to me and Sam to say thank you afterwards ...absolutely alive with the whole occasion. We got the boys together at the end and told them that the ball belonged to all of them , but someone had to look after it for everyone . They all pointed straight away at young Muhamed Kimuaga who was well chuffed to be nominated.

What a day ! I know it’s been said a million times , but we really don’t know what we have or how lucky we are sometimes. Magical afternoon .

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