Wanyama shirt drives Kalingalinga FC towards much needed bus
On Saturday, Victor Wanyama will become the first Kenyan to play in the English Premier League. He will turn out for his new club, Southampton, with a field of dreams in front of him and a golden ticket in his back pocket. Celtic sold Wanyama for £12.5 million, making him the most expensive player to be sold by a Scottish club, and his good fortune could soon have an impact far beyond Parkhead.
A signed jersey from his old Scottish club could earn a fifth-tier team in Zambia their own bus. Africa on the Ball (AOB), a two-year-old charity, are auctioning the keepsake and the money raised will be used for their project in Kalingalinga. Given Wanyama's popularity, the article should command a sizeable fee and if it’s anything close to US$20,000, the vehicle will be secured.
"So far we have received almost $600 in donations but we are expecting this to increase in the last three weeks of this drive," Andrew Jenkin, director of AOB told ESPNFC. "We realise this is a long term fundraising project which may take some time for us to accumulate the necessary funds to purchase the bus."
But what makes this bus so important? And why is this small Zambian team a prototype for how sport can be used to spark much wider change?
Kalingalinga FC did not exist before 2011. They were formed as a semi-professional team by AOB and have achieved back-to-back promotions in the Lusaka league. That is the simple football version of events, but their success is part of a wider community project that aims to marry Africa's most popular game with solving the myriad problems people are faced with in their day to day lives on the continent.
Andrew Jenkin launched the charity after working for UK Sport when he "saw there was a real opportunity to develop a community model centred on the role and importance of football." He also knew that Africa would be the perfect place to do that.
When young Zambians join Kalingalinga, it is not just to play the game. They become part of a food programme, which ensures many, especially those from poorer backgrounds, have "a proper meal on the day of a game", are trained in First Aid and could even qualify for a scholarship to further their education or participate in a recognised football coaching course.
AOB co-ordinates the needs with the resources, but the young players do not simply get to do all the taking. "They pay back their sponsorships in kind by volunteering around the community like litter picking or coaching younger sides," Jenkin said.
Ultimately, if a player succeeds, it will be to the benefit of all concerned because if he is sold on, the funds from his transfer will go back into the project. In order to ensure the sustainability of their campaign, AOB needs to keep producing players with potential. And for that, a bus is crucial. It will provide the means for the team to play away games and it will ensure the community have a way to get around.
"Buying a bus for the community of Kalingalinga would be a huge achievement in our efforts to make our model self sustainable," Jenkin said. "The bus will also be an income generator with the profits democratically distributed to the advancement of education, health care and enterprise. The bus will belong to the community and can be a real source of empowerment. It will also provide jobs for members of the local community."
So far, AOB has raised US$600 for their project. They get their money through donations and the sale of mugs, t-shirts and other memorabilia. The Celtic jersey should tip the scales much further towards their goals. If it works, AOB will have reason to expand to other communities, to set up other clubs and engage in other community efforts.
"We are currently working in Zambia because this is where we established excellent contacts and saw a community we saw great potential to work with and help. We certainly hope we can replicate our model in other communities around the continent," Jenkin said. "We are a very small organisation that is growing quickly and we're always looking for help with our ambitions."
If you would like to be part of the Buy a Bus campaign click on this link to see how you can help.