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Football gave Shivoka new lease of life

Wilkister Shivoka, 20, would probably have dropped out of school and married if it was not for football.

In 2007, Shivoka was barely able to stay in school because her mother was unable to pay her fees, forcing her to become a street beggar. She bought food and paid fees with the money she received.

Shivola walked from her home at Deep Sea slum to Highridge Primary School, but lack of fees constantly keep her out of class.

One day while begging, Shivoka and her friends came across a group of girls training at her school pitch.

“I saw a coach training a group of girls and was really impressed. The girls seemed to enjoy the game, yet some were younger than me,” Shivoka recalled.

Ambition fired her to move closer and within a short while, Shivola was chatting with head coach Dennis Otieno. That is how she joined Victoria Football Club together with her eight friends.

However, her friends were not as enthusiastic as she was and after a brief stay, dropped out of the team and went back to the streets.

For Shivoka, her new found hobby gave her a reason to live and her passion for the game grew.

In 2010, her friends could no longer continue begging and were forced into early marriages by their families. Those who refused continued roaming the streets and slums and were exposed to the vagaries of the tough life.

Forced marriage

“It was sad to see my friends married off at a young age against their will. They did not see the benefit of playing football because they had lost hope,”  she told Nairobi News.

After a few training sessions, Shivoka discovered she had talent in football. Her dedication to sport resulted in the club paying her fees until she completed primary school.

In spite of the challenges she faced at home, Shivoka continued with her studies and football. The winger who will join Form Four next year at Highridge Secondary School, is good at languages.

“It is not easy for a girl to live in a slum and go to school without distractions. I thank God because football has enabled me to stay out of trouble,” she said.

Shivoka has played in various tournaments and won a number of awards. “She is an excellent team player, an inspiration who can make something out of nothing. She is destined for greatness,” said coach Otieno.

Clean houses

When not playing football or studying, she cleans houses in Parklands in for a small fee. As one of the oldest players at Victoria, Shivoka said the club comprising boys and girls between ages of 10 to 18 is her second family.

“I have made friends in the past six years, the people here are my brothers and sisters. I feel at home at Victoria,” she said.

“I believe a girl should be allowed to follow her dreams, it could be in education or other fields for her to make a difference in society,” added Shivoka.

One day, she hopes to get her mother out of the slum and poverty.