Finally, we have broken through! After fighting for many years, the Suba
Lakers defeated our “Giants” and brought a big trophy back to Mbita! Perhaps not large in size, but huge in prestige!
Even before the Suba Lakers Club officially began in
2009, we had been taking some of the best girls from around Mbita and competing
in tournaments in Kisumu (2.5 hrs from Mbita and our nearest city). Back then, the top teams would normally beat
us 5-0 or even 8-0. Our young girls were
all in primary school back then and they were learning and growing by facing
the strong competition. The top teams
like Galactico and Kisumu Youth Olympic Club (KYOC) had players who were in
their late teens and twenties, some of them even played for the National team
of Kenya. Our young girls never gave up
through the challenges and disappointments, and we never gave up on them. For the past six years we have stuck with
them, training on a regular basis and competing in various tournaments. There were even a few times we managed to
lose to those top teams 1-0 or 2-1 and once we even played to a draw, but we
had never defeated them. Until now!
|Kisumu Sports Ground|
It’s not as if we haven’t been successful in those
years. We have won several tournaments
including SEP in Oyugis, KYFA Under 14, Coca Cola, Sakata, AMUT and the Constituency
Championship. Even in the tournaments
with those big teams, we competed well and had even defeated the Galactico
Junior team to win one championship. But
we never had a breakthrough against their best players.
In December we headed to the Human Rights Tournament
sponsored by KYOC. Fortunately for us,
both KYOC and Galactico were not in our preliminary group. They were forced to battle it out in their
group because only the winners of the two groups would advance to the
finals. Our group was definitely the
easier group, though it was not a cake-walk.
We played the Eaglets of Shaurimoyo first. Though we dominated the match, we only
managed a single goal in the dying minutes of the first half. It was a great left-footed shot from outside
the box by Emily Auma.
Since there was only two other teams in our group,
winning the first match put us in a great position to be able to top the
group. The Eaglets played the other team,
Kasagam, before our final group match.
Kasagam was also leading the Eaglets 1-0 in the dying minutes. We were hoping Kasagam wouldn’t score another
goal, otherwise they would hold the tiebreaker over us if we drew our final
game with them. When they got a late
penalty kick awarded to them, our hopes were dying. Fortunately for us, they missed the penalty
and the game ended 1-0. Coach Joe told
our other coaches, that the penalty kick they missed might be the one that puts
us into the finals.
In our final group match against Kasagam, our girls were
a little overconfident. They thought it
would be easy, but it wasn’t! Kasagam
played with more aggressiveness and heart in the first half and took it to our
girls. After half-time our girls woke up
and began playing up to their potential.
Neither team managed to score though there were some chances on both
sides. Since the two teams were tied in
every way (thanks to their missed penalty kick in the previous game), the
organizers decided to go for penalty kicks instead of a coin flip.
In the penalty shoot-out, three of our first four kickers
scored (Emily, Dorothy and Jenty), and our 7th grade goal-keeper,
Lillian Awuor blocked the first two kicks from Kasagam. It was over even before our 5th
kick, and we were headed to the finals to face KYOC who had eliminated
Galactico in their group.
On Monday we had a great training day in preparation for
the finals. We had two good practice
sessions and in the afternoon we showed the girls the movie “Facing the
Giants.” Our Giants (Galactico and KYOC)
had been tormenting us for many years and some didn’t think we would ever get
past them. The movie helped the girls
learn that with God, anything is possible and it helped them believe in
themselves and have the right attitude heading into the finals.
Never give up. Never back down. Never lose faith.
There seemed to be something different this time
around. There was a quiet confidence
among the girls and the coaches. As I
looked over the team, I could see 16 of the 18 girls had been with us for at
least 4 years. They had taken their
lumps at times, but had continued working hard to improve. They had been identified at early ages
(usually in 6th-7th grade) and been trained to play
football the right way. With all of the
time they have spent together, they are more like sisters than teammates.
KYOC was heavily favored against us in the finals. They had multiple players who are among the
best in the country, playing for the National team. They were more experienced with most of their
players in their twenties and having played for many years in big matches. On top of it all, they were playing at their
home ground in front of their home fans which had packed the sportsground on a
holiday afternoon. The odds were stacked
Our girls were not deterred. From the first kick, it was clear that this
was going to be a tough physical match.
Leah Awuor made a hard tackle on their best player in the opening
minutes and our striker Jenty aggressively put pressure on their back-line and
goalkeeper, never giving up on the balls in the box.
Each team had chances to score. We hit the post twice and even hit the back
of the net, but it was negated by an off-sides call. As the match wore on, our girls gained even
more confidence. The match ended in a 0-0
draw so it meant the championship would be decided on post-match penalty kicks. Again they were much favored with their
seasoned veterans including a goalkeeper who is known for being great against
penalty kicks. A little different than
our 7th grade goalkeeper who no one knew!
This time our first 4 shooters scored (Emily, Dorothy,
Lavenda and Jenty). Once again our
goalkeeper, Lillian Awuor blocked 2 of the first 3 shots providing us with the
victory 4-1. After the winning kick by
Jenty, the players sprinted to the corner flag for a celebration in which they
were joined by Coach Joe. It was a
jubilant celebration that befitted a team slaying it’s Giant!
|Lillian training hard...always!|
Watch this video of the winning penalty kick and
|Celebrating with ice cream!|
As the winners, we received a nice trophy, as well as sh.
25,000 in cash (~$290USD). The prize
money was divided up between the players and coaches. Each player took their sh. 1,000 (about $12)
and bought a few items of clothing in the market, a little food to bring home,
and brought the rest of the cash to their parents and guardians so that they
could have a Merry Christmas!
Our coaches and players learned much from this whole
experience. Our “rural” girls from the
“bush” have come a long way in the past 6 years and can compete with any team
if they play their best. We learned that
“big names” and a great resume don’t win championships, but instead it is hard
work, determination and teamwork.
Finally, we learned that with God, all things are possible, even slaying
|The Dream Team|