They come from a region not known for sporting prowess. In fact, a region better known for insecurity and terrorism.
But Boys Town High School of Garissa in August defied the odds to finish among the top four teams in the Copa Coca-Cola Under-16 national tournament held in Kisumu.
They won the hearts of the fans in Kisumu with their good display on the pitch but eventually lost in the semi-final to Koyonzo from Western region.
But reaching the last four was a far much better performance than that of their debut at the Nationals in 2017 where they exited at the group stage.
They train and play at a dilapidated field in the school in Garissa, but the boys love football and are determined to make a mark in the country and change the perception people have of North Eastern region.
Deputy Principal Peter Mugendi is now calling upon the county and central governments to set up a centre of excellence at the school.
“We proved that contrary to popular opinion, there’s talent in North Eastern. I have been here (Garissa) for a while and I can authoritatively say that these kids love football. The whole town comes to a halt when there are matches in this pitch that is in bad state,” Mugendi told Nation Sport.
“Education alone is not enough in the modern world. That is why as a school we are very supportive of our football team. The boys are talented and most of them want to pursue football as a career after school.
“This is a region with a lot of challenges and a lot of the youth are easily exposed to various vices. It is also very easy for them to be radicalised and football is a good tool to ensure they stay away from trouble,” he said.
“I would, therefore, request the government, be it central or the county to consider investing in this school. Make it a centre of excellence. This would go a long way in nurturing the talents of the youth in this region. Our target is to win the National finals in 2020.”
Mugendi is not making things up to seek favours from the authorities.
Abdinajib Hassan was the team’s goalkeeper during this year’s Copa Coca-Cola U-16 National finals but left to join an unnamed team in Somalia immediately after the tournament despite being a Form Three student.
“Most of these talented young students and the youth, are wooed into going to Somalia to play football with little pay. This is something they don’t get at home and they become the envy of the young people they leave behind. We don’t have any league run by the Football Kenya Federation here and that makes it even more difficult for them to transition from playing for the schools within this region to clubs,” said Mugendi.
Important to note is that there’s no single stadium in Garissa County, but the young lads of Boys Town High School still have big dreams.
Fifteen-year-old Boys Town winger Abdulahi Said, who emerged as the top scorer during the Copa Coca-Cola Under- 16 National tournament in Kisumu with five goals looks up to Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama, — a product of this very tournament.
His dream is to become a professional footballer in the near future.
“I like him a lot and hopefully one day I can become a star like him. I would like to play in the La Liga one day — looks like a far-fetched dream but I know it is achievable,” he said.
Coach Abdi Omar, who the students prefer to call (Antonio) Conte (Inter Milan coach), want to give the kids hope for the future and keep them away from trouble through football.
“We have a lot of challenges but our determination to succeed remains high. Our target is to win the national title in 2020 and we have started preparations in earnest. We hope some of our boys will be scouted and move to good teams in the future. Our responsibility is to ensure they are active in football and also in the class,” he said.
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