Kenyan kids in Newcastle UK,for football experience of a lifetime


Ligi Ndogo JS43947661Kenyan kids joined Tyneside teens for a kickabout as they visited the North East.

Forty-seven members of the Ligi Ndogo – Swahili for “Little League” – club made the 4,535 mile trip from the Kenyan capital Nairobi, with under nines, under 11s and under 14s teams spending a fortnight on Tyneside, and an under 17s side in the region for eight days.

“I’ve been going over there for 10 years now for anywhere between four to five weeks and six months a year, and in March decided to go out there full time,” said Malcolm Nevin, 39, from Denton Burn.

“I got involved with this club about three years ago and last year we brought one team over. That went so well that this year we have four teams – and hopefully we can make it an annual thing.

“The Montague Boys Club have been a massive help, organising all the games and laying on food, and then Warm Zone came in and sponsored the strips.”

Staff at the Jesmond based community interest company, which aims to tackle fuel poverty and improve the energy efficiency of homes, donated £110, with the firm itself adding a further £200 towards kit for the visitors.

“We think this visit really fits with the ethos of Warm Zone as we are a community interest company and the visiting club is a great example of community,” said the company’s survey manager John Leslie.

“Malcolm used to work for us – so we’ve kept in touch to see if we could help out with sponsorship. And everyone chipped in.”

But to bring the youngsters from Africa took far more than just a new kit.

“We’ve some boys from the slum areas of Nairobi and for them we had to get passports and raise the funds to bring them over,” said Malcolm.

“I think around a third of the boys will have never left Kenya before – and in some cases, they may never again.”

During the visit the boys watched Newcastle United’s pre-season warm up against Real Sociedad, and attended Tuesday’s open training session at St James’ Park.

Yet unfortunately for any NUFC fans hoping the visit may inspire the next African superstar to follow in the footsteps of Ivorian international Cheick Tiote and don the Magpies black and white stripes, it is highly unlikely that even if the visiting boys impressed, they would be able to return to England to play professionally.

“One of the guys last year, who came over again this year, has had offers from five or six clubs around the world,” said Malcolm.

“He’s now damaged his knee ligaments, so his tour is over – but there are two or three exceptional players within the group.

“However they’re unlikely to ever play for Newcastle because Kenya are too low in the Fifa rankings and they would never get a work permit.

“But we’re working to try and get them scholarships to play for college teams in the USA – so maybe they could be MLS stars of the future.”

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