Kenya on Saturday held its second national street style football championship at the Nairobi National Museum in Nairobi, which was attended by world famous French freestyle football player Séan Garnier.
Though the sport is still in its infancy in the East African country, and the continent in general, the event managed to attract a number of participants from the capital Nairobi and the coastal county of Mombasa.
Edward “Gattuso” Murimi, 28, defeated Martin Kibera, his mentor, in a battle dubbed “the teacher versus the student” to win the men’s category.
“I feel good though I was a little tense. I missed a chance but got another one, that’s when I decided to beat the competition and I got the strength. I feel good being a winner,” Murimi, a full-time freestyler, told CGTN.
Meanwhile, it was déjà vu for Rael Kamanda, a footballer, who beat Linda Seda to successfully defend the title she won last year. Even though the 23-year-old Kamanda appears to be already establishing a dominance, she called for more women to be courageous enough to participate in the sport.
“I feel happy and honoured, I give God all the thanks for the opportunity and the win. All I can do is urge my fellow ladies out there is to come out, showcase their talent. I know they have it but they feel they cannot do it,” Kamanda said.
The duo is set to represent Kenya at the Red Bull Freestyle Football World Championship in November in Spain.
Freestyle World Football champion Séan Garnier hailed the progression of the sport noting that there was more interest and participation since his first visit to the country in 2020.
He, however, said more needs to be done to give greater exposure to freestylers to showcase their talents and make a living from the sport.
“I still think they (freestylers) need more platforms, more opportunities. If you are watching that (freestyle) and you have a company or an event, or a school, or a football club, maybe, it is cool to give a little time to those freestylers to be able to express themselves,” Garnier told CGTN.
“They can give you a lot. The fact that they practice with the ball and do some tricks will attract a lot of people for you…and it is free commercial. So use that, and they will also be happy to promote themselves,” he added.
“We need more events. We need more people who invest in freestylers and people who are playing street football. Any time you see someone (doing street style) give them a shout-out, give them some opportunities, give them your number. I am sure they are so talented they can give back to you.”