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Sadili Oval still giving hope 22 years on

For the past 22 years, Sadili Oval Sports Academy in Lang’ata has given boys and girls an opportunity to develop their sports careers as well as academics.

Heart-warming stories of youths emerging from the obscurity of slums to blossom at the academy is a source of hope.

Jamin Luvembe’s tennis career has come a long way from that day nine years ago when he went to watch a match at Sadili.

Together with his brother Francis Isiaho, they walked from their home at Kibera slum to the neighbouring centre.

What was originally meant to be a day of watching tennis turned into a life changing experience for Luvembe. He fell in love with the sport and asked to taught be how to play.

Life has never been the same again for the 18-year-old who has played in many tournaments at home and abroad.  He has also won titles and broken records.

In 2012, he took part in the Davis Cup in Tunisia.

“That was the greatest day of my life. It was humbling for me coming from a humble back ground to represent Kenya. It is something I had never dreamt about,” said Luvembe.

He was picked at the last minute for trials at Nairobi Club. Luvembe started off as the underdog, but rallied to win all his group-stage matches.

He qualified for the semi-finals as a firm candidate and ended up as the runner-up and fourth player for the team.

Ordinary boy

Thanks to his tennis skills, Luvembe was awarded a scholarship by the Sadili Oval Sports Club to attend Malezi School.

His first assignment outside Kenya was in Florida in 2006, just a year after he started playing. He has also toured Egypt and the East Africa region as part of the Kenya Davis team.

“It’s interesting how life can change. A few years ago, I was just an ordinary boy walking barefoot in Kibera. But tennis has changed everything. I am now in a good school and representing my country at various championships. I am looking forward to performing well on the court and academically,” said the aspiring neurosurgeon.

Luvembe helped Malezi win the national boys doubles for the past two years at the Kenya Secondary Schools Ball Games.

“Sadili gave me the opportunity to go to school and also improve my life, I am forever indebted to it,” he said.

Concentrate on studies

Chizi Mutsumi, 16 was introduced to Sadili when she was three-years-old.

“My older brother and sister wanted me to start playing early but my parents insisted that I should concentrate on my studies first,” she recalled.

After her primary education, Mutsumi was admitted at Buruburu Girls High School but the school had no tennis.

She opted for basketball before transferring to Malezi School where she earned a tennis scholarship three years ago. Mutsumi has represented Kenya in the Davis Cup.

She was instrumental in helping Malezi School win the national tennis title last year.

“My best moment was last year when I represented Kenya at the Fed Cup in Tunisia. It was a dream come true because it is not every day that you get a chance like that,” she said.

Last year, Mistumi played in the African Junior Championship. She won the Under 18 Africa Junior Tennis Open Tournament title after beating Tanzania’s Melissa Brown 6-3, 6-2 during the final in Nairobi.

Mitsumi is training hard and hopes to do well during the upcoming Malezi Open and eventually earn a scholarship to play tennis in college.

She admires women’s world number one Serena Williams of the US.

“Serena inspires and gives me the drive for success,” Mitsumi said.

“She is a complete player, I was excited when she visited us and gave tips on how to become better players,” she added.

Another player who is full of praise for Sadili is John Macharia, 16, who plays football at  Malezi School.

Macharia got a scholarship in 2010 after being selected from a field of over 500 boys during a clinic organised by the Brazilian Football Association.

“I was excited after learning that I had been selected and was grateful because I knew it would change my future,” said Macharia.

Previously, Macharia, also from Kibera Slum, was unable to stay in school for lack of fees.