Before 2005 Ballard High School grad Chris Kaimmer arrived in Mtubatuba, South Africa, young soccer players in the little town in the KwaZulu-Natal province didn’t have the right gear for the game.
A Mtuba soccer player in a borrowed green jersey.
Kaimmer is a volunteer with Grassroot Soccer, a non-profit that uses soccer-based activities to teach South African kids about HIV/AIDS. He also volunteers as a coach with the U-10 team at the Mtbua Football Academy. Kaimmer, a soccer player himself, started playing here in north Seattle, played varsity for BHS and went on to play at Yale before graduating last spring.
“When I first started coaching at the academy, I noticed they really lacked even basic equipment, especially for the level of soccer these kids are playing at (true talent out here and committed coaches),” Kaimmer says. The eight and nine-year-olds he coaches wore often unwashed green jerseys lent to them on game days by the primary school. “Although this was a fantastic situation for any of the Sounders fans among the MFA U-10 squad,” Kaimmer says, “it was actually really embarrassing for the boys because the official team colors are Red, Royal and White and they were the only team in the Academy that didn’t have the right gear.”
Kaimmer contacted his soccer friends back home in Ballard and the response was overwhelming. “Gear that’s old or unwanted back home can get so many more seasons’ mileage over here,” he says. We “ended up getting a huge amount of viking ship-emblazoned Ballard Youth Soccer Club jerseys, goalie jerseys, gloves and soccer boots donated to the cause and dropped at my folks’ house. Then one of my old coaches from the BHS soccer team, Dan Shiels, did a fundraiser to raise money to ship all that stuff down here to South Africa.”
Kaimmer and Mtuba Football Academy players.
“The boys’ reaction was overwhelming on the day the jerseys arrived. I dumped the jerseys out on the grass so they could see them, and the 8- and 9-year olds erupted into a rush to locate the jersey with their favorite South African player’s number on it.” Kaimmer remembers, “It was awesome. I think they were just so happy to have something that was specifically for their team, since the U-10s are always at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to equipment.”
“Despite the great equipment we now have, there are other items we still need and constant expenses involved in supporting the Academy’s poorest players,” Kaimmer says, so he has created a donation section on his blog dedicated to the Mtuba Football Academy. “Any donations will be processed securely through Google Checkout. Though funds donated in this way normally go to a general fund to support my year as a volunteer, I’ll assume that any donations which come in from now on are for the Mtuba Football Academy, and I will ensure they go towards Academy-related projects. Or people can get in touch with me through my blog to request that their donation go to a specific item or project,” he tells us.
“Given how much I love my home neighborhood, I can’t tell you how much it warms my heart to see little Zulu kids in deep, rural South Africa running around playing soccer in Ballard soccer jerseys,” says Kaimmer.