MYSA's Pioneering Journey, 1987-2010


1989 - Denmark/DANIDA the first MYSA aid donor

Denmark/DANIDA became MYSA's first official aid donor with financial support for the MYSA garbage, drainage ditch and environmental cleanups plus donating the MYSA Community Service Cup which is still awarded annually to the MYSA team with the best record on cleanup projects. The key Denmark/DANIDA officer in Kenya was Bo Jensen.

1987 - Former Canadian Ambassador the first MYSA donor

MYSA started in August 1987 and former Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya, H.E. David Miller, and his wife, Chantal (a UN interpreter), were the first MYSA donors with a personal contribution of Ksh 10,000

1988 - UN diplomat gets Aston Villa shirts for Mathare youth

UNEP adviser Robert Lamb, an avid football fan, often went to MYSA youth matches and was surprised to find a team playing in the MYSA Dandora Zone named after his favourite team, Aston Villa. On his return to England, he arranged with Aston Villa Chairman Doug Ellis for a donation to MYSA of a set of Aston Villa shirts. The MYSA U18 boys team proudly wore them in their first big tournament, the Kenya U18 Youth Tournament in Nakuru in December 1988. They were by far the best dressed team and also won the tournament. That was the first trophy ever won by a MYSA team.

1989 - Former Canadian ambassador helps clear Mathare garbage

In April 1989 former Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya, H.E. David Miller, and Brigadier Shigoli of the Nairobi City Council helped MYSA youth clear the accumulated garbage and blocked drainage ditches in Mathare Village 1.

1989-90 - Danish Ambassador referees matches in slums

On Saturdays, Danish Ambassador H.E. Erik Fill often drove the two kilometres from his official ambassadorial residence in the nearby Muthaiga suburb to referee MYSA youth matches at the PCEA field in Eastleigh.

1989 - Norwegian Environment Minister supports MYSA slum cleanups

The Norwegian Minister of Environment, the Hon. Sissel Ronbeck, donated funds for MYSA to buy over 100 wheelbarrows plus rakes and shovels for use in the MYSA cleanup projects.

1990 - Norwegian Environment Minister donates first Norway Cup air tickets

In May 1990 the Norwegian Minister of Environment, the Hon. Sissel Ronbeck, in recognition of the innovative MYSA garbage and environmental cleanup projects, donated the air tickets for the first MYSA team (U18 boys) to participate in the Norway Cup, the world's oldest and largest international youth football tournament. Today MYSA is ranked second after Brazilian club Pequininos in the number of gold medals won since the Norway Cup started in 1972.

1990 - MYSA youth attend their first diplomatic reception

In early July 1990 the Norwegian Ambassador to Kenya, H.E. Niels Dahl, invited the MYSA leaders and Norway Cup (U18 boys) team to his official residence for a reception. That was the first time any MYSA youth attended a diplomatic reception ... and the first time any MYSA youth had been outside Kenya as the property of embassies and ambassadorial residences are extra-territorial.

1990 - MYSA youth become Kenyan sports ambassadors

On July 18, 1990 the President of Kenya, H.E. Daniel arap Moi, received the MYSA U18 team at State House in Nairobi. He presented the team with a Kenya flag and designated them as "young sports ambassadors for Kenya" when they travel later that month to participate in the Norway Cup in Oslo.


1990-94 - Norwegian diplomat becomes "MYSA Ambassador to Norway"

After the breaking of diplomatic relations between Kenya and Norway, Norway appointed diplomat Arman Aardal as its Charge d'Affaires and UN Representative in Kenya. As his bilateral diplomatic duties and activities in Kenya were limited, he spent a lot of time at MYSA and became an active and informal "MYSA Ambassador to Norway". For example, he helped secure continued Norwegian financial support for MYSA teams for the 1992 and subsequent Norway Cups plus special funding to start the first MYSA girls football leagues and activities.

1992 - Pelé and MYSA youth become UN environment ambassadors

In 1991-92, vigilante groups and police in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil were murdering street kids. At that time, MYSA founder Bob Munro was a senior adviser to UN Under-Secretary- General Maurice Strong, the UN head for the 1992 Earth Summit to be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992.

1992 - MYSA youth awarded global environment prize at Earth Summit in Brazil

UNEP Executive Director Mustafa Tolba invited a MYSA youth leader to attend the UN Earth Summit in Rio where, at a special session during the conference, he presented MYSA with the Global 500 Prize for environmental innovation and achievement.

1993 - MYSA youth help fight racism in Norway

In the early 1990s the town of Brumunddal had the worst reputation in Norway for neo-Nazi rallies and racism. With the help of the Norwegian Football Association, the Brumunddal U16 boys team came for a visit to MYSA and the Mathare slums in December 1993. After that visit, the Brumunddal team started wearing a playing shirt with this message written on the back: "Turn your back on racism".

1995 - MYSA youth facilitate new Norway-Kenya diplomatic ties

Kenyan Minister for Culture and Social Services, the Hon. Nyiva Mwendwa, became the first Kenyan Minister to make an official visit to Norway since diplomatic relations were broken in 1990.

The Kenyan Minister attended the Norway Cup finals and presented the trophy and gold medals to the winners to the MYSA U13 boys team. This was the first gold medals won by a MYSA team at the Norway Cup. Today, MYSA is ranked second in gold medals won in the 38-year history of the Norway Cup.

1997 - MYSA youth addresses UNEP Governing Council

In recognition of the pioneering work of MYSA youth in linking sport with environmental cleanups, MYSA Director Maurice Njoroge was invited to address the 19th Session of the UNEP Governing Council at the UN Headquarters at Gigiri on February 5, 1997. His remarks included:

  • "A major threat to our lives is one of UNEP’s top concerns - clean water. The Mathare river is badly polluted and dangerous. We can’t use it without getting sick. We must buy our clean water. For that water we pay 3 to 4 times more than the Ambassadors and big businessmen living in the elite Muthaiga area next door. When water is scarce, we get less and pay even more. Then during the rainy seasons we’re surrounded for weeks by too much water which is contaminated by piles of uncollected garbage. Then even more kids get sick and die, especially from diarrhoea. When it rains, our younger brothers and sisters die of dehydration.
  • That is the hardest thing to understand or accept. How can anyone possibly justify that we, the poor, pay more than the rich for water? The real cost isn’t only in money. We, the poor, also pay more in lost health and lost lives for the lack of clean water. Land is also a key issue. Our families are crammed into small plots and shelters, most owned by others. We live on borrowed time and land. But for land, like water and too many other resources, there would be enough to meet everyone’s need if we eliminated greed ...
  • There are many other youth initiatives to protect and improve the local environment around the world. Instead of only “Thinking Globally, Acting Locally”, we also need to act globally the way many community and youth groups are acting locally.
  • When you were young, did you dream that some day you would be sitting here representing your country and deciding on the future of the planet? I and my friends, we dream that we might get that chance someday. But we also dream that we might get a better chance to improve our lives today and to influence your decisions that will affect our lives tomorrow.
  • The motto of our organization is “Give youth a sporting chance”. I want to extend that a bit and ask you all to apply it in the decisions you make here and at home. Please make sure in every decision that you give the poor majority, the environment and us - the youth and future generations - a fair and ‘sporting chance’ for a healthier, longer and productive life."

1997 - MYSA highlighted in UN report on AIDS

"MYSA demonstrates how, through a judicious combination of sporting and educational activities, young men and women can overcome traditional gender biases and relate to one another with mutual respect and understanding." Glen Williams, Lucy Ndanga and John Ngugi, UNAIDS Strategies for Hope, November 1997

1998 - Norway Environment Minister donates garbage trucks/tractors to MYSA

In 1996 the Norwegian Environment Minister, the Hon. Thorbjorn Berntsen, took time off from a UNEP Governing Council meeting in Nairobi to visit his friends in MYSA and the Mathare slums. Overwhelmed by the awful living conditions in the slums but moved by the friendliness and determination of the youth he met, he asked what he could do. He was surprised when the answer was "help us get some garbage trucks and tractors to clear the garbage better and faster. He did. On May 23, 1998 his successor as the Norwegian Environment Minister, the Hon. Guro Fjellanger, came to MYSA and handed over two tipper garbage trucks plus two tractors, each with a front-loading shovel and a ditch digger at the back.

1999 - MYSA youth become peacemakers to help UN restore peace in refugee camp

In late 1999, after hearing on their radios that SPLA soldiers from Ekitoria region had reportedly raided their home area, the Dinka and other smaller Sudanese communities in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwest Kenya retaliated by burning and looting the thatched homes of refugees from Ekitoria. Armed with guns and other crude weapons, that outburst of inter-ethnic violence left six dead and over 30 injured.

The Kakuma refugee camp was established in 1992 under the management of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in cooperation with the World Lutheran Federation (WLF). By 1999 the camp was home to over 70,000 refugees. Nearly 70% of the refugees were from southern Sudan. The remaining 30% were from seven other countries: Somalia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Eritrea.


At the request of the UNHCR and WLF and with the financial support of the Dutch government through the Netherlands National Olympic Committee/National Sports Federation and Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB), in early 1999 some MYSA youth leaders and two Dutch volunteers went to the camp to help start new self-help youth sports and community development programmes similar to those pioneered by MYSA over the previous decade in the Mathare slums.

2001- MYSA highlighted in book on "Unlikely Heroes" in Africa

"MYSA is different to other aid organizations as its 'core business' is sports. Inside there are no sociologists walking around, only young people in tracksuits …. MYSA is the largest young people's organization of its kind in Africa. The unusual thing about MYSA is that it is run by the young people." Marc Broere, "Unlikely Heroes: The Dynamics of African Sports", 2001.

2002 - MYSA highlighted as a pioneer in UN report

"MYSA has been a pioneer in many respects. It has been on the forefront in defining the links between youth development and environmental issues in sub-Saharan Africa and it has been one of the only youth sports organizations in Africa that has encouraged girls' participation." Martha Brady and Arjmand Banu Khan, "Letting Girls Play", Population Council, 2002.

2006 - MYSA praised as international role models by UN-HABITAT Executive Director

"The young people who run MYSA demonstrate a high degree of professionalism, combining competitive sports, discipline and community service. They successfully act as role models for their peers. By looking up to their older brothers and sisters, the children of Mathare can start life with greater hope and confidence even though the road ahead is fraught with difficulty. It is a message of hope that we all need to heed and learn from." UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka, "Image- in the MDGs", June 2006.

2006 - French Captain Marcel Desailly on MYSA and power of sport

"The story of these kids here is so harsh yet they are being offered hope through sport. I have seen where these young kids come from and it is a credit to themselves and MYSA that many of them are able to turn their lives around. Going through Mathare was a nightmare. But sport can give them pride and help build self-esteem. This is a clear example of how sport can make a difference to the lives of so many young people." Former French national team Captain Marcel Desailly, Daily Telegraph, UK, November 1, 2006

2006 - Olympic champion Michael Johnson cites MYSA youth as role models

"While athletes and celebrities are repeatedly touted as heroes and role models, it is the everyday person - who has pulled themselves out of a difficult or hopeless situation and who shares that story and the lessons they've learned with others to help them to do the same - who are the real heroes and the real role models. That is precisely what I found in the program directors and coaches of the MYSA project, true role models." Olympic Champion Michael Johnson, Daily Telegraph, UK, Saturday, November 18, 2006

2007 - Sir Bobby Charlton on the "most remarkable football club in the world"

BBC: "There is a quote in your book on "the most remarkable football club in the world …" And it's not Manchester United. It's the Mathare football club In Nairobi. What makes you say that?"

Sir Bobby Charlton: "I am a member of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation which is a worldwide body. What they do is they fund projects which we go into. I first went to Kenya to one of the first projects we had. And there was this young lad in the slums of Nairobi, Peter was his name. I met him and we went and had a look at the slums, one of the second worst and largest slums in Africa. They started organizing their own football teams in little leagues on any little bit of spare ground. What they did was they gave two points for a win, a point for a draw and a point if you went in to clean up the slums on a Saturday. And everyone came and wanted to play for this team. It was a magical idea. Eventually they won the league, won the championship and represented them in the African Champions League and were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize."

Interview with Sir Bobby Charlton by Chris Mitchell, BBC World Service, September 8, 2007


2008 - Mathare youth: Football heals in Kenya after post-election violence

Drawn from different tribes, the [MYSA] children have also put Kenya on the international football map when they won the first FIFA StreetFootballWorld Cup in Germany in 2006. It is against this background of being society builders that the children of Mathare survived the trauma of the intertribal clashes between the Luos and Kikuyus in late December … Some of the children and their families sought protection at the Mathare police station where officers decided to allow matches at a nearby pitch and, more importantly, provide security during the games. AGENCE FRANCE PRESS, "Football heals in Kenya", February 10, 2008

2010 - Made-in-Mathare juala ball in Olympic Museum

"A very special football, made by children in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, found a new home at The Olympic Museum on Wednesday as a symbol of the inspirational power of sport and the close cooperation between the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations. IOC President Jacques Rogge accepted the makeshift football from HRH Princess Haya Al Hussein, an IOC member and a UN Messenger of Peace, and Wilfried Lemke, the UN’s special adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, at a brief ceremony at The Museum.

“This ball was made from discarded material, but it represents something priceless. Sport changes people’s lives, whether they live in a mansion or a refugee camp. This simple football symbolizes the cooperation between the IOC and the UN to bring the uplifting power of sport to those in need. It is a welcome addition to a museum that showcases and celebrates the Olympic values and athletic achievement,” Rogge said.

The ball, fashioned from plastic bags, newspaper and string, took a circuitous path to Lausanne. It was given to the UN Special Adviser as a present by a young man from community sports project in one of the Nairobi slums. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon initially delivered the football to the IOC at the opening of the XIII Olympic Congress on 3 October 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. After being signed by Rogge and the Secretary-General, it went to Dubai, where it was auctioned at a charity event hosted by Princess Haya and Lemke.

The football fetched USD 205,000 (Ksh 15m) on a night that raised more than USD 848,000 for sports programmes for children and youth in Palestine. The donor returned the football to allow its installation in The Olympic Museum. The ball was presented to The Olympic Museum three months after the UN General Assembly gave the IOC official UN Observer status. This solidifies the institutional bonds between the two organizations and gives the IOC the right to participate in UN debates". See "Special football finds a home in The Olympic Museum", January 20, 2010,

Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) Kenya, along Kangundo Road, Nairobi

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