A player's story
My name is Melau*. I am 16 years old and I am from a village in Lake Victoria in Tanzania. I am an orphan, both of my parents died when I was young. My Mother when I was 4 and my Father just 3 years ago.
I had 2 sisters and 2 brothers and my older sister took over responsibility for the family when my mother died. In Tanzania when a mother dies the oldest sister steps into the mother role.
I am very sad to say that my 2 brothers have also died, one in a motorbike accident and the other was very ill, only passing away recently. They were both older than me.
During this hard life I focused on my football and continued to play in the streets and this is what kept me going.
Three years ago, when I was 13, I moved from Lake Victoria to Arusha, which was about 1000kms away. The reason I moved was because my older sister was working in Arusha and I came to live with her. As she was the person who had cared for me most of my life it made sense for me to live with her.
My sister was living in a Maasai village in Arusha.
I didn’t know any other kids when I arrived, but the next day I met a boy called Lomitu* who lived next door.
Lomitu played football at Lengo Football Academy and he told me all about playing football at Lengo and how much he loved it. I told Lomitu how much I loved football and Lomitu said he would talk to the Head Coach to see if I could play.
I started training with Lengo Football Academy the next week, which was lucky as my Father died soon after I arrived in Arusha. Football was all I had.
I focused so hard on my football and under the guidance of Teacher, Emanuel, my football really improved. I couldn’t believe it when I turned up one night and I was given new football boots and football top.
I was just starting to feel at home and I had made lots of friends from Lengo and other teams that we played against. This is when my sister became engaged to a man who lived in Dar Es Saalam, which is Tanzania’s capital city and another 800kms away from Arusha in the opposite direction to Lake Victoria. My sister told me I had to go back to the village in Lake Victoria to live. I did not want to go back because I would not have had any football club to belong to and no support.
Teacher Emanuel went and spoke to my sister to ask whether I could stay in Arusha as I didn’t want to go back to Lake Victoria. I was at this meeting and it took more than 3 hours because my sister thought if I was left alone I might start taking drugs and something bad might happen to me. My sister was not trying to be mean to me. She couldn’t take me with her because she was already taking my younger sister.
After this long talk and Teacher Emanuel telling her about the plans to help good footballers and to help me, my sister agreed that I could stay in Arusha. Teacher Emanuel said Lengo would look after me.
For the past 2 and a half years Lengo has been paying for me to stay in my home, for my food and to train at the Academy. I have been enrolled to study English, but I need sponsorship from a kind person to be able to afford it.
Last year I won the best player in the whole of the Arusha league and this year my dream is to study English and be selected to play in the professional league.
Without football I’m not sure what would have happened to me. I feel that I am so lucky because Lengo Football Academy has given me everything and is making my dreams come true.
*Melau and Lomitu's names have been changed to protect their privacy