Divided loyalties in the slums of Nairobi

Korogocho slum lies on the edge of a dump on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

    Football is a popular distraction for many in the slums

    It is a poor neighbourhood where most residents have no running water or electricity and most families live below the poverty line.

    To take their minds off these harsh realities any form of cheap entertainment is welcome - and football is top on the list.

    During the weekend impromptu games are played on abandoned fields or quiet streets where a ball is a bundle of plastic bags bound together with string and goal posts are erected from sticks or cardboard boxes. 

    Players imagine they are cometing in the World Cup, taking on the roles of the big stars playing for Brazil, Germany, England and Argentina. But participating in one of the five African teams doesn’t even cross their mind.

    If the mood in Korogocho is anything to go by, Africans have little faith in their continent’s ability to go far in Germany.
    Joshua Ndolo Kiamba speaks for many when he says the team he'll be backing comes from another continent, 9,000 kilometers away.

    'My team'

    Tom Otieno: Africa don't have a

    "I support Brazil because Africa doesn’t have a good team." Africa, he says "may win or not. I am supporting Brazil because they will win and it is a must for my team to win."

    Fellow football fan Tom Otieno laughs at the thought of rooting for an African team.

    "I am supporting France because their team has some roots of Africa in it. I really like supporting a team from Africa but they don’t have a chance to win."

    Danson Kibandiko is torn - so he’s come up with a solution to ease his conscience.

    "I support Ivory Coast because I am from Africa and I have never supported a team from any other continent,” he says.

    But his faith, it seems, has its limits. "In the finals I am hoping to support Brazil," Danson says. "I don’t think any African country will make it that far."

    'No match'

    It seems age has nothing to do with the bias towards Western teams. Twelve-year-old James Mburu takes time out from his afternoon game to say what he thinks of Africa's chances.

    "I support Ghana... But at the end of the day they are no match for the big boys of Europe"

    Jamese Mburu, 12

    "I am a footballer in Korogocho and I support Ghana," he says, "This is a good team in scoring goals. But at the end of the day they are no match for the big boys of Europe. I’m sorry but it is the truth."

    Down the road, 14-year-old Abdirizaka Ibrahim echoes the same sentiments.

    "I’m supporting England because of their players," he says adamantly, "They have experience playing for big clubs. Africa doesn’t have good clubs so I can’t support them."

    Even the ladies have little faith in their African men.


    Women are as much of a fixture as men at local games and sports bars in Nairobi. All are proud of the African teams making it to Germany, but skeptical about how far they will go.

    Halima Hanny: Backing Tunisia...
    but money on the Brazilians

    Once again the Brazilians rank highly in their estimations.

    "I support Brazil because they play a good game," Tabitha Rure says bluntly. "I don’t support Africa because African teams don’t know how to play. I would be very surprised if an African team actually won the World Cup. It will happen one day, but only after a very long time."

    Halima Hanny is patriotic and is supporting Africa, but only up to a certain point.

    "I’m supporting Tunisia because it’s an African team that can win one day," she says, "But until that day comes and they win the World Cup, my money will be on Brazil or Argentina.

    'Always England'

    Grace Wambui: Brought up in a
    Man Utd family

    College student Grace Wambui grew up in a family of ardent Manchester United football supporters. For her there is only one nation to support.

    "It’s always been England in our house," she says, "Africa, I don’t think I would be putting any money there. To think they can outlast and even beat the likes of England, I don’t think so."

    It seems Africa's footballing footsoldiers have a lot of work to do in convincing fellow Africans they can make it to the utlimate in football glory.

    So until an African team can make it through to the tournament, see it through to the end, and actually bring home the cup, Africans hopes in their teams doing well will never materialise.

    But with four of the five African squads making their World Cup debut in 2006, most will be content with the fact that they have made it to Germany at all.

    All pictures by Mohamud Mohammed Ibrahim

    SOURCE: Aljazeera



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