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MTG United - More than just a win
IN supported community-based organisation (CBO), Moving The Goalposts Kilifi (MTG), uses football to empower over 3,000 girls in the rural and urban areas of Kilifi County, Kenya. Through playing football, MTG girls discover and build their confidence and value themselves as strong, capable young women. MTG leagues are youth-led and managed, and include girl-advocates that promote healthy sexual choices, financial independence and female leadership.
MTG United, the organisations ‘homegrown’ football team, has qualified for the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Premier League for Women. For many, this does not come as a surprise after the fourth placed finish in 2011’s Football Kenya Limited Premier League for Women, but, due to FKF taking over the Premier League from Football Kenya Limited, MTG United began the season in the Nationwide 1, securing promotion to the Premier League for next season.
Every week, more than three thousand girls play football matches in leagues run by the girls themselves in 45 villages across Kilifi County. Besides learning football skills, the development of leadership and life skills and economic empowerment opportunities is equally important. The MTG United players are all drawn from the MTG leagues, trained by MTG girl’s coaches and selected by their peers for the team. The squad for this year’s Premier League has just been announced, leading to difficult choices.
MTG United coordinator and coach, Clarice Mrengi, said: “It has been difficult, but we have selected a great team.
“We have a good mix of experienced players such as Fathime Khamisi, Sarah Kitsao and Mbeyu Akida with young talented players from the MTG United under-16 team.”
MTG focuses on representation from Kilifi County, so the girls all have something in common in that they started their football career with MTG, starting with MTG under-13’s, onto the under-16’s helping them grow into players that are ready to face stiff competition from Kenya’s best teams. 2012 will also see MTG celebrate its milestone tenth anniversary.
With a huge amount of pride Lilian Mbeyu, MTG football coordinator, said: “That means that our first youth players have become young adults. For the first time, we have a group of nine out of school girls in the team.”
One of those girls is MTG staff member Sabina Wanjiku, who was one of the players to win the Homeless World Cup with the Kenyan team in 2011.
Sabina said: “Although one third of the players are now out of school, the majority of the players are still students, some even in primary school. So it will be difficult to get the team every week together. Fortunately, our relationship with the schools, such as Waa Girls and St. John’s, is good. The schools appreciate football and our players. The girls have the responsibility to be even better students and role models to deserve these chances, but that will make them even more focused as football players.”
Of the many challenges that players and teams can face, distance can greatly impact upon those teams that come from beyond Nairobi.
Elvina Kahindi, from Ganze in Ganze district, said: “I live one hour[s] distance from Kilifi, but transport can be slow and irregular so it usually takes longer. Some of my team mates come from very far in Vitengeni. But I think that is what makes us strong. Our MTG United team comes together on Sundays in Kilifi. My league team in Mido practices only twice a week, because girls living in rural areas walk long distances to school and have a lot of household chores to perform. So I have joined a boys team, Seven Heavens, in my village to prepare myself for the matches to come.”
Coach Clarice is happy to have some “old players” back in the team. Fathime Khamisi and Sarah Kitsao, seasoned MTG players who were among the players that represented MTG at the Football for Hope Festival during the World Cup 2010 in South Africa, have found their way back to the team.
“We were in secondary school and not able to play last year. But now we are ready.” said Fathime Khamisi, who joined Olympic High School in Nairobi with a scholarship, and, as a captain, led her team to the East African School Ballgames in Burundi, is happy to be reunited with her team mate Esse Mbeyu Akida.
She continued: “We have always liked to play together and we have been good friends since we were students at Fumbini primary school. We have been playing together in MTG since we were ten years old.”
Esse Mbeyu Akida attended the National Talent Academy in 2012 and was one of the pillars in Matuu, the National Talent Academy’s team.
She said: “It was good to play with so many talented players in a team. It was a good experience and I learned a lot. I became the top scorer of the Premier League and was selected for the National Women’s team. Now it is my turn to bring back what I have learned to my team in Kilifi and the girls from Moving the Goalposts. Our slogan is Tunaweza. I know that other girls from Kilifi are now also ready to make it.”
Some of those new stars in the team are Selina Ngolo and Mariam Samini, who traveled, in 2011, with a group of Kenyan under-14’s girls’ players to Germany for a football exchange under the wings of the international NGO CARE. Selina and Mariam are students at St. John’s and Waa secondary school, institutions with a good academic and football reputation in the Coast. Another experienced group of girls are the former MTG United under-16’s who regularly participate in the East African Cup in Moshi, Tanzania. Last year they were the runners up in the girls’ tournament.
Lilian Mbeyu, football coordinator in MTG, says: “… we cannot do it without the support of the parents, the teachers and the community. They encourage girls to play football and to set their goals. We have girls who are determined to do well in the Premier League. So they will.”
MTG played, and won two nil, its first match in the Football Kenya Federation Premier League for Women on Sunday 19th May at 14.00 pm at Vipingo Community Ground.
For more information visit the website http://www.mtgk.org/ & follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/INtl.INspiration#!/pages/Moving-the-Goalposts-Kilifi/243963892334857