• How Do I Play Messi for Gender Equity Again?

    CAC Self-Directed Learning coach Markus Bensch blogs from Eldoret, Kenya with the Kenya Community Sports Foundation (KESOFO)

    April 21st 2015. After working for 10 weeks Off-Field I was scheduled in Kenya to run 6 different programs in 6 weeks. It was the longest break from working On-Field since I joined Coaches Across Continents (CAC) one year ago. Would I still remember how to play the games? Do I still know how to coach or did I already become a woolly academic after spending hundreds of hours in front of my laptop screen? I would find out very soon. I left Germany just before Easter and arrived in Eldoret on Sunday April 5th. On Monday we had an introduction meeting with about 20 participants and our implementing partner Kenya Community Sports Foundation (KESOFO). When the first participants arrived at the meeting hall I could already feel the excitement building. I introduced myself and explained CAC but I couldn’t wait for Tuesday to get back on the field. My colleagues Turner and Kelly arrived on Monday night from Uganda after they just finished our programs there. I was very excited to work with Kelly again after we had so much fun in Tanzania in December running four different programs. And I looked forward to working with Turner for the first time after I met him last year in Uganda when he was still volunteering with Soccer Without Borders (SWB). And we were all very happy to welcome our Community Impact Coach (CIC) Phelix Aloo into our team. It was his first time joining CAC outside of his home community. On Tuesday morning at the breakfast table our team was finally complete and the fun part could start.

    We wanted to start our training at 9am, but it is Africa so the clocks work differently, less precise and less commanding. We finally started about one and a half hours late and after asking the baseline questions we could finally get onto the field. We started with Circle of Friends and then I coached my first game after almost 3 months: Messi Skills for Life. As I was coaching I got this warm feeling in my body that tells me that I am in the right place in that particular moment, a place where I belong: the football pitch!

    The week progressed very well and the participants enjoyed our games. Our Gender Equity games and ASK for Choice curriculum initiated very good discussions about female empowerment and abuse of women. We discussed the social issues of sexual harassment, rape, sex trafficking and female genital mutilation. When we start these conversations the men are always very vocal in explaining the situation in their community and country. I feel that some of the men try to downplay the situation about sexual abuse and indeed most of them are silent. After some time I invited the female participants, who are usually in the minority and usually a bit shy to speak up in front of men, to share their view and opinion. It is very interesting to see how the women open up when they get asked and how much value they add to the discussion. I feel that they often draw a more realistic picture of the situation due to the fact that most of them have experienced, or at least know somebody, who has been sexually abused. I have experienced several times, and Eldoret was no different, that our discussion about gender equality and female empowerment works like a turning point in the week. The women feel empowered and valued in their views through our encouragement to speak up and the interest we show towards their stories. Afterwards they will speak up without being asked and act as equal participants and revive the dynamic of the group. For me it is always so rewarding to see participants grow in their confidence and self-esteem and witness how their whole bodies become more relaxed.

    After the program on Friday afternoon we visited a participant in his community and met with the football team he coaches. We had a short session with the children and youth of the community where we played some of our CAC games and some of the participants got another opportunity to do more coach-backs. Afterwards we played a football game between the local team and a “Dream Team Eldoret” which consisted of participants and us four coaches from CAC. Dream Team Eldoret won with a tight 1-0 score and we all had a lot of fun. It was a great finish to a successful week with KESOFO. And thanks to Turner’s hint I even remembered how to play “Messi for Gender Equity”!

    I want to say a big ‘Thank you!’ to Phelix Aloo who has been a great help to our team on and off the field. Unfortunately he couldn’t join us for his 2nd week in Kitale due to a sickness of a close family member that needed his help. We wish that she gets better soon and we hope to welcome Phelix again as a Community Impact Coach when the opportunity arises.


  • “What is the Biggest Obstacle to Equality?”

    May 11, 2014. The best first-day question ever asked by a CAC participant: FACT – Well, it may be, it may not be, but to be asked, “In all the countries you have visited, what do you think is the biggest obstacle in the way of equality?” on the very first day of training says a great deal about the wonderful people we work with.

    Oti leads the coaches in a fun game of Head-Catch, think fast!

    Oti leads the coaches in a fun game of Head-Catch, think fast!

    CAC continues its journey through Kenya, planting the seeds of social impact across this beautiful country. Last week found us in the city of Eldoret, known for its consistent success in athletics, but with a passion for the beautiful game that feeds right into the CAC fire.

    Senior staff member, Nora Dooley, leading our programs in Kenya this year, was joined by Community Impact Coach, Charles Otieno Sisia (Oti), from one of our most valued partners, Vijana Amani Pamoja (VAP), as they trained the coaches in the sports network created by KESOFO (Kenya Community Sports Foundation).

    The group of participants this week included a wide range of characters, all with big smiles and big personalities. Our team, as always, had the welcome challenge of designing a curriculum that accommodated everyone, from very little football experience to lifetimes of playing and coaching the game, from referees to players to teachers, and even some journalists thrown in the mix, there was a wonderful mélange of culture and experience.

    Coaches work together during the Pairs Scrimmage

    Coaches work together during the Pairs Scrimmage

    All in all, the games this week went fantastically well as the participants were always ready to have fun and truly grasped the notion of using the power of football as a means of education. There were the usual favorites such as 95% Football, Adebayor Uses a Condom Tag, and Scary Soccer, but there were also some new standouts, the rising stars of the CAC curriculum. One of these games we are calling the Pairs Scrimmage – self-explanatory and unbelievably fun! Players must not let go of their partner’s hand while playing a regular game of football. This simple adjustment begs next-level teamwork and communication and the participants were seldom without a smile while they played.

    Another new game is part of our Child Rights module. After an enlightening Child Rights Protection discussion where equality was the prevailing issue, we played our Right of Children with Disabilities Game. This is another game that is, seemingly, a simple game of football. Then we add changes to trigger the desired social impact, and in this case that meant restrictions. One player on each team could only play 1-touch. One player on each team could only play with one of their feet. One player on one team had to play with one foot by jumping on that foot, while one player on the other team had to play with their arms behind their back. Two players could only walk, while the rest were without restrictions and could play as they pleased. We discussed the game afterwards and when asked why we play this game, participants responded with answers like, “challenging us to solve our problem!” – which we love – or “punishments if we make a mistake.” The latter response played perfectly into the matter at hand – were they punishments? Did you do anything to deserve them? The participant in question realized they had not, and then we transitioned into the discussion about whether people with physical and mental disabilities ask for those circumstances at birth. Of course not, so why should they be treated any differently from anybody else? This game provides a striking visual of the realities of having disabilities, the importance of understanding the difficulties that so many people struggle with every day, and the overwhelming need for social inclusion.

    Chalk it up to another terrific week in Kenya. These now CAC-certified coaches are some of the strongest, most assertive leaders we have worked with. From what our team saw during coaching sessions with children in the community, and from what we heard during discussions and closing remarks, these men and women get it – and they will undoubtedly be spreading the love, continuing to work together to harness the power of football in the greater Eldoret region in the name of youth development, female empowerment, and above all, equality.

    Students learn how to take care of their bodies during Ronaldo for Health & Wellness

    Students learn how to take care of their bodies during Ronaldo for Health & Wellness


    To learn how our Staff responded to that wonderfully biting question, comment below or email