By Jeff Keeling
Science Hill’s biggest local soccer rivalry will reverberate as far afield as Africa when the Toppers tangle with Dobyns-Bennett Friday at Kermit Tipton Stadium. Joel Wanyoike, a native of Nairobi, Kenya and the goalkeeper coach for the East Tennessee State University women and the newly formed Otters FC semipro club, is leading a drive to collect shoes and other gear to send to Nairobi.
“Where I come from, these kids have the passion of the game, but many of them are playing the sport in bare feet,” Wanyoike, who played keeper for Milligan College from 2003-2006, said Friday. “We have all these cleats sitting in people’s garages around here. Getting some of them to Nairobi will give these kids some hope and be a fantastic help for them.”
Bins will be set up at the gate when fans arrive to see Science Hill, which was 7-0-3 going into Tuesday night’s game at Tennessee High, takes on the Indians Friday. Game time is 7 p.m. Items collected – Wanyoike said soccer socks and other usable gear (shorts, jerseys, etc.) are also welcome.
The material will be taken when local Kenyans visit home, and go into the care of one of Wanyoike’s friends who now is an assistant coach with the Kenyan national team, Musa Otieno. For several years, Otieno has operated a non-profit foundation that uses soccer as a platform to help teach young people life skills and prepare for higher education.
“He reaches out to us who are here (in the U.S.) to donate whatever we can,” Wanyoike said. “Some of us got college scholarships and it changed our lives (Wanyoike is a system engineer for Wellmont Health System). We’re just trying to return the favor to where we came from.”
Otieno’s foundation operates in a section of Nairobi known as Jericho. Built in the 1950s to accommodate 10,000 people, it is home to around 50,000 now. A 2009 report noted around 60 percent of youth there were unemployed and lacked the skills to compete in the job market.
Learn more about the foundation at nairobifc.com/musa-otieno-foundation.