Rural Africa has never experienced shortage of soccer balls but Muteteri Grace, an artisan plying her craft at the Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center, saw the need to improve the quality of those balls. She came up with an advanced version of balls which are lighter and bouncier. Their spherical shapes, weight and material composition form a product that is a step closer to the specifications required by the sport’s global governing body.
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. Making balls out of recycled materials 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.