Ballardite finds new use for old gear in South Africa

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.”

Read More