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For the Love of Soccer

As the World Cup winds down this week, we are left with images of the best Carolina for Kibera kidssoccerteams in the world competing for the top honor in soccer in vibrant and beautiful South Africa.  Through the lens of this African country, many people are also left with images of a continent that they had never seen before and, perhaps, with a connection to a place and a people through their mutual love of soccer.  Some images have been captured by Jessica Hilltout, a Belgian photographer who traveled throughout Africa for seven months photographing soccer wherever she found it—from school yards to beaches.  Her camera captured games on fields shared with cattle, home-made soccer balls, tattered clothes in lieu of uniforms, and pure happiness.

Rye Barcott, a student at the University of North Carolina, had his own images of youth and soccer when he traveled to Kibera, Kenya, nine years ago. He, too,  noticed the love of soccer shared by so many in this slum.  But he also saw the anger and hostility that often erupted between people of different regions and ethnicities who were settling in Kibera as they left their villages.  Barcott founded Carolina For Kibera with the late nurse Tabitha Atieno Festo and community organizer Salim Mohamed, who each shared the conviction that the poor have the solutions to the problems they face.  Barcott started to work with the youth of Kibera though a sports program that engaged them, reduced ethnic tension, and promoted community involvement.  His game of choice, of course, was soccer.  Last year Carolina for Kibera reached some 3,700 young people through 255 soccer teams throughout Kibera.