18-02-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
From Calabria to Mida Creek, from the red clay courts to the coral and sand of Timboni.
The Calabrian section of the Italian Tennis Federation has brought rackets, balls, two nets and ad hoc clothing to Watamu, following the idea of the passionate journalist Valerio Giacoia, to give more fun and meaning to the adolescence of many children from the poor areas of the Kenyan coast.
As we have always preached (especially with facts, and those who follow us know this well), sport is one of the most effective means of removing young people from the snares and enticements of the street, which here are called drugs, prostitution, petty crime and at best begging.
So Giacoia, a globetrotting reporter with a heart for social issues, decided to combine one of his passions with the smiles and hopes of those who have become great little friends.
The Calabrian journalist himself recounts this experience on the pages of the Quotidiano del Sud.
"These children are hungry, but they also have the right to joy. And we have brought them rackets and balls," says Giacoia. "They play tennis in the villages of Kwahadija, just inside the road that traces the Timboni district, they play tennis in Mida, close to the marine creek and the immense Arabuko Forest, the largest riverine forest in East Africa with its 400 kilometres of extension. Children who are among the last on the planet in terms of rights are playing for the first time. If a (human) right suddenly emerges from the mud and dust, it will have been a miracle. So tennis has become the game of rights, in the midst of the too many "backhands" of their lives, the Great Backhand of their lives, which are mostly peppered with the mud of the rainy seasons, and with dust and mosquitos when it gets close to forty degrees, as in this period. Each of them without any shelter from the daily violence and from the indifference of the planet, each of them without prospects and all too often not even hope, perhaps not even that one in a thousand of the Gospel".
All this happened in recent weeks during a holiday in which the journalist alternated reportage with real social activity, realising the conditions of misery and problems that are evident even in a tourist town and in some ways privileged compared to other realities in Kenya.
"The red earth is not that plush of western circles sheltered from the troubles of the world, but very fine, almost amaranth sand where the notorious funza live, These children did not choose to be born and live in this part of Africa, to play in the dust, barefoot, dirty, sharing the ink on plastic labels with chickens, to challenge fate every day in a match with the funza. Having their tonsils cut raw, for example. This happened to a nine-month-old girl a few days ago. "She always had a cough", the mother justified herself, hastily, unaware of the damage and the risks in the midst of all sorts of filth".
Bringing a little impromptu joy to these children is a well-known satisfaction, and hoping that someone with a racket in their hand can change their destiny even by a notch is a dream worth dreaming.
The emotion of the Calabrian FIT Committee is understandable in this sense.
When he received the first photographs, President Joe Lappano could hardly say a few words. "It's too big, I'm moved, amazed...". Emotion that soon spread to the various regional tennis clubs.
And the first exciting tournament that was played, thanks to Calabrian donations, was something to experience before even narrating it.
"An amazing tournament, an impromptu rave of happiness,' Giacoia explains, 'I've never seen it, never heard of it. The tennis stadium stands between the huts and the fires in the middle of the stones waiting for polenta and beans, if you can find a few shillings to buy them, to be cooked. But if he were in the midst of hunger, he would do the same now. You play, and the right to joy is not taken away from you.
(photo: Valerio Giacoia, Facebook)
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