Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Soccer Balls and Shoes (boots) Campaign - Play Safe & Secure a Future in Soccer

The first soccer shoes campaign that I started was in 2000, actually my first soccer shoe that I wore was donated to me back in 2006 by the late Helge, who was a friend of the Mathare Sports Association (MYSA) from Norway. He donated the soccer shoe (boots) to me during the Helge's cup tournament after scoring the only goal during the finals against an all-star’s youth team from Mathare United. In the following years in 1997,1998 and 1999 I was honored to be selected three times for the prestigious international tournament in Oslo, Norway called Norway cup where I played for the Kenyan team under the umbrella of Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA). 

My soccer journey is what continues to drive me towards achieving a bigger vision where there will be no child playing with barefoot in my neighborhood whilst offering the best platforms for upcoming soccer stars to see their stars shining from the local scene into the international markets. 

I envision a model that will enable the young-stars play in a more dignified environment where they don’t get unnecessary injuries and lack the basic needs to nurture their careers in soccer. It is unfortunate to see similar hurdles existing today like those during my journey more than 30+ years playing barefoot and my parents not able to offer soccer shoes (boots) as one of the essential items towards my growth. The problem I seek to address through soccer. 

 The majority of the youth and children between 12- 25 years are the most vulnerable when it comes to matters, crime, drug abuse, alcoholism, political intolerance just to mention but a few. The same group also lacks the necessary platforms, mentors and resources to help them pursue their talents to the best levels they can. 

Together with my friends we founded Mathare North Rangers F.C in 2010 to help nurture talent, mentor the children and youth on matters school life, entrepreneurship, leadership and soccer while providing a healthy and safe environment for the kids to become responsible citizen in an environment infiltrated with many challenges. During the weekends and school holiday, you will find kids roaming the streets engaged in nothing meaningful especially in urban informal settlements, my goal is always to create safe spaces in soccer activities where kids receive mentorship, training and have fun to explore more in soccer activities. 

I started the soccer shoes and resource mobilization campaign after realizing many youths are playing without shoes or if they have shoes it isn’t safe enough to protect them. This situation contributes to their low self-esteem towards playing to becoming future stars because there are no clear pathways from the grassroots to the top levels. On the other hand, the majority can't afford to buy shoes because parents have other priorities on their list other than buying soccer shoes. 

This situation is similar to my story, it reminded me 28 years back when I used to play in the same spaces with my friends with the home-made balls. I'm determined to break this vicious circle at least within my community with the main focus of helping Mathare North Rangers F.C as a successful model of a grassroots initiative that engages the youth beyond soccer. I took this pictures on Sunday 11th October 2020 in my neighborhood. Picture It is unfortunate that much hasn't changed from the base of the pyramid in matter soccer and I believe that every individual effort, even in a small way counts in nurturing the grassroots talents. 

This is the reason I started mobilizing resources from my network and beyond to assist young upcoming stars from U12 - U14 play in the ideal spaces with the appropriate gears for the game. This would eventually shield them from injuries and improve their desire to become pro-soccer stars in an environment where it's very unpredictable to make it to the next level in more calculated and professional manner. Since inception in 2000 the campaign has so far reached more than 300+ soccer stars and I'm motivated to do more even with the tough economic challenges brought by the pandemic. The question is how do I achieve a sustainable model in making sure our team Mathare North Rangers F.C will grow into the next level even without my presence. 

Currently I'm working on implementing a collective or a shared model where everyone contributes something even if it isn’t on the same rate. Implementation Plan Below is my implementation plan as the Team Manager / Resource mobilizer of Mathare North Rangers F.C a community grass-root soccer club that I founded with friends under Wilsen Initiative (WI) 

My main roles are; 

  • Mobilize resources for our teams U12, U14 and Over 16. 
  • Mentorship and training of players and coaches. 
  • Source for linkages for further exposures for the team at all levels. 
  • Organize annual community U10 & U12 tournament featuring 18 teams in the community. 
This is subject to availability of required resources to run a successful tournament. My sustainability action plan 2020 to 2025; - 

  1.  Established Mathare North Rangers Support Group (MNRSP) I continue to encourage the senior players to make small contributions towards the welfare of U10 and U12. Majority of MNSP members aren't stable, but they do make efforts to support the team especially on transportation. Currently, we are seven members including myself and we invite well-wisher 
  2. Reach out to parents by encouraging the young-stars to talk to their parents and guardians to offer support for their soccer activities. Even though the approach is on a slow pace as experienced with our target group where soccer isn't part of the family priorities of need, but we have seen good efforts made by a parent of our U12 towards purchasing of uniforms . 
  3. Continue with the annual call for support mobilization through my individual network and even reach-out to other spaces where I'm not known but explore possibility for support and partnerships. 70% of our resources received in the past were donated by my networks of friends and 10% from our players and 20% from MNRSP members. 
  4. The introduction of top up model based on co-sharing: This means all players in our team (Mathare North Rangers F.C) are encouraged to save 50% of the total cost of a soccer shoe and the other 50% shall be raised by the Mathare North Rangers F.C support group (MNSP). We can only do 3- 5pairs per month and this only applies to players above the U14 years. 
  5. Shoe Shared model: - Every player is encouraged to source for their own shoes for training which can be any shoe provided it is comfortable to play with especially running shoe which we also call 'rubbers' would be ideal compared to playing barefoot. In case we get support for shoes we save them for the game so that any player can use them when they are playing, so this mean we inculcate the culture and spirit of sharing and responsibility. We would wish to get everyone a pair of shoes per year, but it is expensive and we don't have guarantees of annual support from different sources. We choose to go with the shared model due the fact that we don’t have the funds. The sharing model ensures equality within the team as opposed to only awarding a few in a team of more than 30 players without shoes. 
  6. The Next Upraising Star: - Here the main focus is to award individual stars with soccer shoes from the age of U12 -U14 who have shown consistent stellar performance not only in our team but also in other clubs within Mathare North. This is also subject to availability of resources and player don need to apply to be awarded. 

  • The soccer and resource campaign run all through the year, but more activated in October – December.
  • In December we also organize U10 & U12 soccer tournament for kids even though it’s subject to availability of resources to run a successful tournament 
My aspiration and vision for the team 

To inculcate the culture and spirit of collective responsibility and support where everyone contributes whatever they have as we continue to invite and encourage our wider network for support. We also encourage former Mathare North Rangers players to join the support group. 

Thanks to everyone who has supported that calls since inception and I hope you won't give up because the problem still exists. As I work around introducing new sustainable approaches, we still need your assistance in acquiring at-least 10 balls and 10 soccer shoes per year. 2020 

Call for Support 

I invite you to join me in this year's annual soccer shoes and balls campaign that seeks to connect young stars in Mathare North slums (Mathare North Rangers F.C) with quality soccer shoes and balls to avoid injuries but also to motivate them in their soccer journeys. By the time of posting this article I have acquired 4 new soccer balls and 6 quality playing shoes for the young-stars. The Goal; - • 10 soccer balls and 10 pairs of shoes. Currently I'm left with 6 new balls and 4 soccer shoes. The Target: 1st December 2020. Get in touch with me through 

 Other related links of soccer insights and successful campaign I have initiated in the past years
We Can Do It!

Friday, October 16, 2020

My Biography - Wilson Masaka


10 Things That Still Exist in Kenyan Soccer That Hinders Growth.

This is a reflection / flashback of my 25 years journey in soccer

 I have achieved many recognitions, exposure and accolades, but my top most satisfaction is achieved when I pass the acquired knowledge and skill to the next generation, especially through training, coaching and mentorship on matters on and off the pitch. 

 Every soccer star has their own stories on how they started, the majority if not all soccer stars in Kenya didn't start their soccer journeys at a more professional academies like those in developed countries. The general tale of the stories is that from the onset, players engage in soccer activities that doesn't have clear roadmaps of mobility towards a more professional level in soccer as a career. 

The light of turning professional is dimmed from a distance and many players hop from one club to the next one in search of better contracts while hoping that 'lady luck' will come to their rescue to connect with oversee clubs of their desire. 

Due to all this unpredictability and uncertainty, many don't make it to the desired level and it's unfortunate to see the number of talents aren't nurtured to the next levels at their prime age as per soccer standard where it is expected that at that time a player should have gained meaningful engagement with a professional soccer club. 

 Some of the challenges that I did experience 25 years back that still exists within the system at the earliest stage of initiation into soccer starting at the grassroots are:- 

  1.  No professional academies that can match what we see overseas. 
  2. No clear roadmap that can assure and encourage parents to invest in soccer as a career. 
  3.  Lack of adequate resources like transportation, uniforms, soccer shoes, tracksuit, balls etc.
  4. Lack of of professional leadership, starting from grassroots clubs or initiatives.
  5. Top clubs not having enough resources to sustain operation as a business model that would create an ecosystem that effectively support their academies tapping talent from the grassroots.
  6. Limited safe spaces for young stars to play and a lot of ad-hoc approach in transferring skills and knowledge. 
  7. Sports injuries that are unattended that force many to drop their dreams. 
  8. Inconsistent approach by federation and other stakeholders that are expected to lead ways of building a sustainable soccer economy. 
  9. Lack of players training and mentorship especially on matters that deals with off the pitch that are vital to their well-being into turning pro or even leaving a better life after they retire. 
  10. Corruption allegation and infighting from different stakeholders in soccer.
I have achieved many recognitions, exposure and accolades, but my top most satisfaction is achieved when I pass the acquired knowledge and skill to the next generation, especially through coaching and mentorship on matters on and off the pitch. 

The Untold Stories 

The untold Stories There are many untold stories in our soccer journeys that hasn't been either been told or documented and if well told I believe our past undoing would usher in a new mindset to start thinking globally while implementing sustainable initiatives that would over the best environment for our soccer players starting at home. 

The ripple effect would be diverse from encouraging many to play, our national team sourcing for the best at the local levels, exporting best talent abroad, attract the ideal investors and a more competitive / professional league from the grassroots to the top league. 

 The Advise In case you're playing active soccer in Kenya the time is now to get smart in documenting your gear more importantly, learn how to combine Soccer + Education and Business. 

Currently I offer training Bootcamps for soccer players and clubs to help them build their brands in a more sustainable way at an early stage. On the flip side, if we need to amplify our voices and usher a new beginning for change and better livelihoods for soccer players. 

We need to create forums and platforms to celebrate our journey, account for the mistake done never to be repeated, build systems and structure that would offer soccer as a career of choice in Kenya as opposed to how it is currently done where there are no clear roadmap to visualize the journey and commit at an early stage in life. 

My philosophy in coaching; 
 "Generally a great coach recognizes that there are some things he/she can't change on how a player plays, but he /she taps into those individual unique talents and skill in every player to form a winning combination that can adjust to any situation." - Wilson Masaka - Ex-Coach Mathare North Rangers/Metro Sports
In celebration of my journey below is my short soccer resume (Highlights). I still have the passion of becoming a professional soccer coach and I believe I can do better than some of the coaches. 

If I was still playing soccer, which team, would I be playing for in Kenya? 

 Team played for at different stage;
  • De La Rue (Super league) - Pumwani Sportive (Super Two league)
  • Otto-benecker F.C (Community grassroots soccer). 
  • Helges Sports (Community grassroots Soccer).
  • Mathare North Villas F.C (MYSA Community League - U12)  

Local and international tournament.
  • Coca cola-cola tournament 
  • MYSA championship 
  • Norway cup 1997, 98 and 99. 
  • National team Call ups - National team U17. 
 Workshop and training 
  •  Dekeyser fellowship in Hamburg, Germany. Fellowships for the sports coaching project, with Jens Lehman. 
  • FIFA Futuro workshop and clinics held in Kasarani
  • KNVB soccer clinic with Mysa team heading to Norway cup 
Teams founded and coached at grassroots 
  •  Metro Sport F.C 
  • Mathare North Rangers F.C 
 Ongoing initiative:- 
  • Mathare North Rangers F.C - Resource Mobiliser. - Soccer Boots and Balls campaign under Wilsen Initiative (Wi) - Annual U12 soccer tournament Mathare North 
Get in touch with me in case you want to support my journey and initiative. Email:-