Rural Africa has never experienced shortage of home-made soccer balls. However, one Kayonza-based artisan has seen the need to improve the quality of those balls. Her name is Muteteri Grace, a resident of Nyamirama Sector.
Initially, she handcrafted balls using banana leaves. Her innovative idea gave birth to lighter and bouncier home-made balls. Their spherical shapes, weight and material composition formed a product that was a step closer to the specifications required by the sport’s global governing body. Later on, she figured out how to use synthentic leather and inflatable inner bladders. Today, her product can compete with any other established brand in the market.
African kids have been making their own soccer balls for generations. Materials used vary from region to region. In most places, they use leaves, worn out clothes, nylon and fabric. Forming balls out of recycled material is a skill every rural African boy develops at a tender age.
Lack of fancy sporting equipment is compensated by creativity. Poor families in African villages may not be able to afford the best sports gear but that doesn’t prevent African children from reaping the benefits of participating in sports.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Africa. From grass pitches to dusty patches of unleveled surface, kids across the continent enjoy the game anywhere, with or without shoes. In most cases, goal posts are improvised.
Playing is important for optimal development among children. It contributes to their cognitive, physical, social and emotional wellbeing. The United Nation’s High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as every child’s right.
While visiting Africa in 1994, Johann Olav Koss saw an Eritrean boy turning his shirt into a ball within seconds. The boy in question took off his shirt, rolled it up and used its sleeves to tie it and form a roundish object. When he threw it on the ground, his friends joined him and the game was on.
As mentioned above, when it comes to fabricating balls, every rural African boy is adept. However, the need to improve standards for a better playing experience is handy. Grace and her colleagues are championing the evolution of locally made soccer balls.
The author is visiting all 30 districts and 416 sectors of Rwanda. His tour of Kayonza is sponsored by Ikaze Rwanda Tours & Travel, Imigongo Art Center, Silent Hill Hotel, Jambo Beach, Ihema View Campsite, Akagera Rhino Lodge and Exposure Digital.