Czech football aid to Africa continues

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The Czech football star Tomas Ujfalusi is a tough defender who takes no prisoners on the pitch. But - inspired by his aid-worker cousin Robin Ujfalusi - Tomas has lent support to a project in which football is being used to help children on the streets of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Tomas Ujfalusi, photo: CTK
Ties between football and aid to the developing world are relatively new concepts in the Czech Republic, but in one year a unique project started by Robin Ujfalusi has made a positive impact. After seeing conditions on the ground in a Kenyan slum, Robin got in touch with his famous relative Tomas Ujfalusi, who plays for the Czech Republic and Fiorentina.

"My cousin basically brought this project to my attention. He asked me if it would be possible to help somehow. I elected to donate some money, which they used to buy essential sporting supplies like footballs. So that's how it all started. As for the conditions for football there in Nairobi, they are really quite awful. As you can see from the football I'm holding—it's made of plastic bags tied together with string. I can't imagine playing with such a ball! So of course we sent footballs, and I'm planning to visit the area in the future, when time allows."

As part of the upcoming World Cup competition in Germany, Street Football World has organized a tournament in the streets of Berlin, and teams from Kenya and the Czech Republic are competing. It's just one sign that these cultures have found a link to one another—something that community workers in Africa try to achieve on a local level, like in Rwanda where football is being used to bring together Tutsi and Hutu children and heal the wounds of a bloody civil war.

Bonface Mbugua from MYSA, the Kenyan partner in this project, explains the aims of the street football project that his organization runs in Nairobi:

"Basically in street football they create a surface where all people have equal chances. Everyone can voice their comments equally, because there is no referee—it's people controlling the game. MYSA is all about the social side of the people in the slum because we use football for social development. For instance, we have some social problems in the slum because it's a poor living area so people don't have access to some basic things. We have problems with drugs, and with contagious diseases due to the bad environment. So what we basically do is try as much as we can to give a choice to young people, so that when they have leisure time they can spend it wisely while playing football. Through this we also mobilise work forces so that they can help clean the areas and prevent outbreaks. We also pass information about AIDS, so that young people know about AIDS."

RP: You mentioned that you are hoping for more concrete cooperation with the Czech side—please explain.

"As you know, there could be a possibility for our people to get some training in the Czech Republic, such as in the coaching field. We would be happy to have such a thing because it would benefit no only individuals, but also the organization as a whole."

RP: Approximately how many street kids in Africa are involved in your programs?

"I'll be specific about MYSA, because that's where I'm based. I would say that we have 17 000 youths. The estimated population in our slum is close to one million, and this is only one part of Nairobi, one area in Kenya."

So perhaps in some small way, aid from Czech football players is helping to spread a positive message in troubled areas of Africa.