Nairobi News

SportsWhat's Hot

Disability is no barrier for the big-hearted Dieng

Dennis Dieng, 21, who is a native of South Sudan has lived in Kenya since 1999. When he was still an energetic young man, football was his passion and he loved spending as much time as he could on the pitch.

That was until a mysterious illness struck him while still in primary school and he became paralysed from the waist downwards.

“I woke up one day and discovered that I couldn’t walk. The doctors did not know what had happened or what they could do next,” said Dieng who was forced to start using a wheelchair.

Dieng’s love for football still burnt on through school at Tumaini Primary in Umoja to Maseno School in Kisumu where he left in 2004.

Since he could no longer use his feet to play the game, he would do so with his hands.

“I played for Maseno but after completing high school, it became a bit harder when I returned to Nairobi. I played for an amputees’ team but noticed that the kids lacked talent. I decided to be a trainer because I am good at football,” said Dieng.

He began training children under the age of 13 from Donholm and its environs and named the team Spoilers Football Club. They play in various leagues sponsored by the Mathare Youth Sports Association (Mysa) in Eastlands.

Children interested in playing football are free to join Dieng’s training sessions that he holds in the evenings and weekends at Donholm Phase 5. After training, the children usually play a match.

“I don’t charge these kids or their parents any fees for the training I conduct. It is out of my free will to shape their young minds not only in terms of sports, but holistically too when they get off the pitch,” he said.

Since Dieng does not ask for any payment, he incurs all the expenses. But there are times when a supportive parent or a resident in the estate makes a donation towards the team, which is uplifting. 

Jobless coach

Dieng does not have a job but he plans to join university in the future because he scored a B+ in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination.

He is hopeful the war that erupted in South Sudan will end soon and the economy will stabilise.

Dieng said once the oil fields were safe, his father Manaseh Tot would return to work. 

He said once life normalises his father would be able to support him and 17 other children including relatives currently living in their family home at Harambee Sacco. 

Dieng previously lived with his brother Gabi Elijah Gawat at Greenspan, Donholm but now stays with his grandmother Rebecca Tot. 

Had the cirumstances in his life been better, Dieng would be studying law.

“I raise funds through hustling or I use the little pocket money I have to get these kids kits, shoes and balls and also pay entry fees and transport for them to participate in leagues,” he said.

“It’s hard, but I do it anyway. Sometimes I wish I could do enough for all of the children but I’m very limited in how far I can go for them,” said Dieng.

Asked about plans to involve the children’s’ guardians to help in financing the activities, he said he would float the idea to them though he does not see majority of them coming on board as this is an extra expense and a weight on their budgets.

“The kids come here out of their own volition so you can’t expect a child to start asking for money to help the team out of the blue without the guardian having prior knowledge of what we are doing,” said Dieng. 

“But since things are becoming tougher and the limited number of kits prevent us from playing the 11-a-side games. I really hope donors will step in and help,” he said.

He currently trains 24 children and each of them has a maximum of four kits. The children come from Donholm Phase 5 and 8, Harambee Sacco, Jacaranda, Greenfield and Savanna estates.

The main events Dieng trains for are the children’s’ leagues that are organised by Mysa in Komarock, Eastlands. His players have won numerous cups in the years he has been their coach.

Dieng also boasts of having trained one of the recent recruits of the Coca Cola talent search that identifies and nurtures gifted players.

The recruit Sam Majid is boarding at Machakos High School.

Aside from football, Dieng instills in his charges the importance of leading honest lives without manipulating events or cutting corners for them to achieve their goals. 

He also encourages team work among the children on and off the pitch.

Dieng said he gives players some form of structure in their personal lives to complement what they are taught by their guardians.

“Aside from all these, my aim is to keep kids’ occupied to prevent them from loitering around and falling into vices such as drug use, stealing and fighting,” said Dieng.

With the league season approaching, all he can hope for is assistance from well wishers in getting his kids footballs for everyone to train at the same time and level. He is also looking to renew their kits.

His advice to amputees who find that they cannot play football because of fear of complications is: If you have a passion for something, go for it. It does not matter your limitations. If you can’t be fully involved in an activity, then teach others. It’s just as gratifying.