June 8, 2011

Sakata Regional Finals

We took our top team to Kisumu this weekend for the Sakata Regional Finals. The best part was that it didn't cost us any money. The tournament paid for our transportation, meals and accomodation. Nothing came out of our own pocket. They put us up in a hotel and some of our girls were using flush toilets and taking hot showers for the first time.

When we reached on Friday afternoon, we trained for a short time and then they brought us to the conference room so a speaker could share with them about life skills. He talked about their future and their dreams. They discussed choices that would help them reach their dreams and obstacles that would derail their pursuit. He shared about discipline and hard work in the classroom and on the field. They received some great lessons.

When the tournament began on Saturday, we were matched against the best team in the semifinals. They were older women that compete in the Kenya Women's Premier League. When we first played them 4 years ago, they defeated us 9-0, then 4-0 three years ago, then 2-0 two years ago and finally 1-0 last year.

After about 5 minutes they scored their first goal on a cross that was headed over the goal keeper who had mistimed her jump. I think many people expected a blow-out, but we quickly rebounded by equalizing a few minutes later on a goal from Pauline Aoko. Unfortunately at the end of the 1st half we gave up another goal to go down 2-1. In the 2nd half Irine Achieng and Dorothy Adhiambo both had good shots at the goal, but were stopped by the goal keeper. Neither team converted another goal in the last half so it ended in a 2-1 defeat for us. The other team went on to win the finals in a lop-sided affair.

Our young girls put up a good fight, but couldn't pull it out in the end. We definitely made a positive impression. Even the next day, people around the field were still talking about the fight our girls put up. They didn't expect our young girls to be able hold a giant like that. They were commenting that our game was like the final because it was the two best teams. People were also impressed with our team's attitude towards the officials, referees and the other team.

It was a good showing, but it was unfortunate we couldn't have played one of the other two teams in the semifinals so that we could have reached the finals.

I am keeping faith that God will soon reward us for our faithfulness and honesty in these tournaments against some of the big teams.

June 2, 2011

Going to Regional Finals

We are taking our top 18 girls to Kisumu on Friday for the Sakata Nyanza Regional Finals. This is probably the strongest team we have ever taken to a tournament. As our young girls continue to grow and develop physically as well as improve their football skills, the team keeps getting better and better. We defeated two very good teams to reach this next stage.

There will only be four girls teams in Kisumu for the Regional Finals. The winning team will get a cash prize and a ticket to the National Finals, as well as each player receiving football cleats, socks, pads, shorts, jersey and a bag to carry it all in. That is a wonderful prize. The second place team will get a smaller cash prize.

The tournament is supposed to be for amateur players under the age of 23. Whenever you get good prizes like they have though, then many teams are tempted to cheat by bringing in players from other regions, or overage player or even professional players. So pray with us that there will be a fairness and equality to the tournament so that the right teams and right players are competing.

Our team is a mix of secondary girls with some 8th graders from primary schools. Pray for our safety as we travel and that we would bring glory to God by the way we play as a team, our effort and our attitude!