By Olga Otieno
Old Town Sports for Development was founded by Yusuf Mohammed, famously known as Coach Ndere in the year 2016. In an interview with Miss Wevyn Muganda and Miss Farida Ally, together with some of the teenagers he mentors, Coach Ndere highlights the initiative’s goals to use sports, especially football, as a tool to prevent crime and drug use among children and teenage youth in Mombasa.
Coach Ndere adheres to four pillars in his fight against drug abuse and crime. God, Parents, Education and Sports. He believes that children should grow up fearing God, ultimately respecting their parents, acknowledging the importance of education and finally take part in sports, which will keep them engaged, provide career opportunities and make them physically fit and healthy.
‘A majority of organizations give more focus to the youth, who are persons between the ages of 18-35, forgetting teenagers aged between 13-18 who also need proper mentorship before it is too late.’ Ndere says.
When the teenagers come together in team spirit, they build respect for one another, their referees and their coaches. They also take up different roles in their day to day activities such as marking the field before tournaments, taking care of their kits and putting up goal posts nets, which helps them grow a sense of responsibility. The coaches discourage monetary gifts or promising the children money every time they play as this triggers a thirst for money by children and teenagers. Instead, he encourages well-wishers to award them with trophies, football gear, books among others. This way life skills are employed increasing adaptive and positive behaviour among youngsters.
Old Town Sports for Development hosts tournaments for different categories, – Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17. Each category contains roughly 120 players, bringing the total to around 360 players. Every school holiday, Coach Ndere reaches up to 400 teenagers including fans and this has contributed largely to reduction in crime in Old Town, Mombasa.
In 2018, the initiative started a campaign dubbed ‘No to Drugs, Yes to Sports.’ Through this campaign, they visited primary schools and madrassas and teenagers on the risks associated with drug abuse and the importance of responsible citizenship.
Some of the boys who are part of this initiative expressed their appreciation and encouraged their colleagues to join them. According to them, football has kept them physically fit and has prevented them from falling into the trap of radicalisers. The field protects them from unhealthy hearsay that may cause them to join illegal groups and criminal gangs. Apart from education, they also view football as a career opportunity, hopeful that one day they will be scouted for better and bigger opportunities.
Even though the initiative has had a lot of impact in enhancing peace and security, it faces a lot of challenges. Some of these challenges include; financial constraint in purchasing sports gear, lack of support from parents and indiscipline by some teenagers.
Support from parents goes a long way in shaping the character of these teenagers. Unfortunately many parents have never attended their children’s tournaments while some restrict their children from taking part in the tournaments.
Lack of availability of trophies and rewards on tournament days during the holidays has been a major disappointment, especially for the most disciplined team and most disciplined player trophies which Coach Ndere believes are the most important rewards for the players as it promotes good behaviour.
Football coaches spend a lot of time with teenagers and as such are credible voices. They have the ability to influence them towards good or crime. Many football teams have been used as breeding grounds for radicalisation and recruitment to criminal gangs. Football tournaments have also been perceived as hotspots for violence even at the national level with examples from football matches involving Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. For every situation, there is always an opportunity to do good. The decision lies on individuals and the words and energy shared. Players listen to their coaches more than anyone else.
Do you know what every sportsman’s favourite part of the game is? An opportunity to play. It is for this reason why sports is a critical tool in personal development and peacebuilding.
Old Town Sports for Development depends entirely on well-wishers. Coach Ndere, a professional football player does not earn any income from the initiative. He dedicates his time and efforts to mentoring the boys out of his love for his neighbourhood Old Town and a passion for community development.
To support Old Town Sports for Development in the upcoming holiday’s tournaments, send a message to their Facebook page here. They need trophies, balls, jerseys, water, glucose.There is no donation too small to make a difference.
For more on the voices from Old Town click link below to watch the full video on Kauli Zetu Mtaani; a platform that seeks to amplify the unheard voices of young people in informal spaces in Mombasa, Kenya.