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Kicking goals in Kenya

Friday, 15th March, 2019

Darren and Anne Flowers, who are helping out, and looking to add more, kids’ soccer teams in Kenya. PICTURE: Callum Marshall Darren and Anne Flowers, who are helping out, and looking to add more, kids’ soccer teams in Kenya. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

Broken Hill-born Darren Flowers is on a mission to support kids’ soccer in Kenya alongside his wife Anne, with a familiar local name being brought along as well, writes Callum Marshall.

Darren, who’s currently in town as the Barwon Election Manager, said he had initially started up a kids soccer team in Thika when he was over in Kenya in 2013.

“So in 2013 we went to Kenya to live,” he said. “I had a visa issue so we had to come back, but one of our kids said they wanted to play soccer and get a team organised.

“So we put a few fliers around and we had about ten kids turn up for a training session in the first week. The following week we had about 200.

Having been one of the initial founders of the Alma soccer club in the early 90s, when Alma Juniors merged with North Seniors, Darren wanted to pass on the local name to his new team in Thika.

“So we formed a soccer team called Alma Makongeni which was based in Makongeni, one of the areas in Thika,” he said.

“We called it Alma because of my connection to the soccer club here in Broken Hill.

Their desire to help out has progressed significantly in the last six months.

“About six months ago I put an ad on a Facebook page, one of the soccer pages in Kenya, and I got a whole heap of people sending me information about their clubs and looking for some sponsorship,” said Darren.

“I finally had contact with William Ndung’u from the Mecmakuyu Empowerment Centre Santos, and he sent me a whole heap of information about the program they run and how they have taken a lot of kids off the street, a lot of orphans.

“(Kids who’ve been) brought into the program, fed and formed a soccer team alongside a men’s team.

“And that was something I was looking at doing, (getting) a kids’ team and maybe a women’s one (going) as well, as there’s a few girls playing there as well. 

“We negotiated, talked about it for a bit, and I agreed to buy some equipment.

Anne went to Kenya a few weeks ago and she took all the equipment over and presented it to the club.

“I also paid their fees to join the league, the men’s competitive league. Because they had so many players left over they then formed a second men’s team.

“So the senior side became MEC Santos and the second side became Alma Santos, and they play in what they call the ‘sub-league.’

“They have a connection with the club Santos in Brazil and Raul, the coach, he’s actually an ex-player for Santos,” said Darren.

“He’s in Kenya at the moment doing volunteer coaching ...  that’s how I became connected with them. 

Spreading the Alma name, the team he played such a key role in locally, was important to Darren as well.

“I had this idea that maybe in a few years’ time there can be an Alma in each of the major centres,” he said.

“Maybe form some type of foundation called the Alma Foundation. And maybe people will like what we’re doing and will want to come along and sponsor it, donate some old equipment, uniforms, balls and boots. 

“Things we can ferry over to Kenya on a regular basis because Anne goes there fairly regularly.

He said he was impassioned to help give kids sporting opportunities they might otherwise never have had. 

“You see kids here running around playing soccer or football or any sport and there’s so many government grants or things they can be helped with to play sport. 

“In Kenya that doesn’t happen.

“So these kids just run around the streets kicking not even a soccer ball.

“And I just have this thing where I want to help someone, so if I can help them in a little way by donating some balls, boots, uniforms and whatnot, then (I’m more than happy to do that).

“To help them play the game that everyone loves. And soccer’s a worldwide game, everybody loves playing soccer.

His comments were echoed by Anne.

“The fact that they get this food program and opportunity for education, it’s a big thing for a kid that had nothing,” she said. “And now they can see a bit of a future.

“When I went over there recently, the first thing I noticed was the playground they were playing at which was all dirt.

“I was like ‘had they even had any water?’ because we’ve got no source of water or anything (like that out there.) 

“But they were that dedicated and they were so excited when they saw the balls because what they had previously was pretty bad.

“They’d been using sticks for cones with something wrapped around them.”

Giving the kids a dream of perhaps one day playing for Santos, or in Europe or even in Broken Hill for the original Alma was particularly gratifying they said.

“If they dream that they could use soccer (to make it big), even if they can’t, that to me is something special,” said Darren.

“(To play for Santos or in Europe or move to Broken Hill) is something they all wish for,” added Anne.

“But it doesn’t necessarily have to be them coming to Broken Hill or going to Europe or anything, it’s just motivating them to play and work hard.

“And if they do well they have a chance to get a scholarship and go to university, and that’s still something.”

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