This year’s Maji Safi Cup was our biggest soccer tournament to date, involving over a month of hard-fought matches between 14 teams – all hoping to win “the trophy goat”. During that period, a total of 1675 community members came out to watch and cheer, and over 800 youths attended the pre-match water, sanitation and hygiene lessons needed to be eligible to play. As Community Health Worker Jacob Nyangoye explains, “The goal of Maji Safi Cups is to provide health and sanitation education while improving talents among youth in the Shirati area. Maji Safi Cups bring us closer to the community by working with hundreds of young adults, while also building camaraderie among youths from different villages through realizing the importance of preventing disease.”
This Maji Safi Cup saw 14 teams sign up who were then split into four groups, with matches starting on October 29, 2014. Throughout the group play, we saw the players’ ability and confidence to talk about hygiene and sanitation grow along with the pressure of the looming elimination games. The lessons focused mainly on hand washing, sportsmanship, and the importance of personal hygiene in gaining the respect of fellow community members. The matches on Nov. 22nd identified our final group winners, thus setting up the single elimination semi-finals. The semi-finals, held on November 26th and November 29th, were both hard-fought matches that left Chapakazi FC and Tina’s Education Center to battle it out in the final. Chapakazi FC were the veterans who had won the 2013 Maji Safi Cup, whereas Tina’s was in the cup for the first time, but they had shown solid team tactics and cool composure over the ball.
A Maji Safi Cup final is always a special event, because it is often the first time players get the chance to perform in front of hundreds of people in a party-like atmosphere with music in the background. Over one hundred youths came out for the pre-match personal hygiene lesson, and by the middle of the first half, over 300 spectators were at the field rooting for their teams. Chapakazi FC got ahead early with a breakaway goal within the first 2 minutes of kickoff. Although Tina’s was a bit shocked, they were able to right the ship and go into halftime only down 1-0. Tina’s missed a few chances in the first 15 minutes of the second half, and Chapakazi FC took advantage with a strike from outside the 18-yard box with only 10 minutes to go, sealing the deal by going ahead 2-0.
Following the final whistle of the highly contested match, the whole crowd came together for the award celebration. The players from Tina’s Education Center were very graceful in defeat. One of them told the crowd, “It was a good match, because everyone played with respect, and no one got hurt.” All the finalists then received school supplies as their prize, and Chapakazi FC was awarded the coveted “trophy goat”. With people dancing around the field, and before everyone could finish washing their hands to eat bananas, the two-time champions had started running their trophy goat to town center.
While enjoying the music and our bananas with big smiles on our faces, we too were thankful for an injury-free tournament and the power of sports in bringing awareness to crucial social problems in the world.