WINDHOEK, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- 25-year-old Tobias Hanjamba runs up and down a hill, getting himself ready for his match in Namibia's Havana informal settlement where 11 Kasi (informal settlement) teams are playing in a tournament to determine this year's winner.
The tournament is an initiative of the country to turn the attention of the youth away from unhealthy or bad habits like alcohol abuse and crime to sports and recreational activities while also promoting the informal soccer fraternity to formalize the ad-hoc Kasi games into a league.
Since the age of 12, Hanjamba has dreamt of a better life away from the scourge of alcohol abuse and crime, an everyday phenomenon for children who grow up in informal settlements, and soccer has been that lifeline for him.
"I have seen my fellow peers end up in jail because the environment we grow up in is filled with alcohol abuse and crime. I am lucky to find a passion. I want to play in Namibia's premier league one day. That is the dream," Hanjamba said.
Participating in the Kasi Cup is an opportunity for young men living in Namibia's most populated locations, where people live in corrugated iron shacks to escape poverty and build better lives for themselves.
"We would use soccer balls made from old materials such as plastic bags and clothing and play in the streets. This helped us stay away from trouble. I didn't know it then, but that's where my love for soccer grew. I want to set an example for the young ones growing up in the Kasi that sport can be your way out," he said.
The Kasi Cup, which attracts 1,826 players out of 83 teams, is very popular, with thousands of people coming to watch and cheer for their community members and favorite teams.
25-year-old Gabriel Pandeni is also living proof that the initiative is a success as he relates how his life has changed with him encouraging other young people from the informal settlements to follow suit.
"I started playing soccer around nine years old. I have been a part of this league since it started in 2012 when I was still a boy. I have grown up in this league. Soccer changed the direction of my life," he said.
Pandeni believes soccer has given him a purpose.
"It is important that the young ones know that there are opportunities in sport. It doesn't really matter which sports one plays, as long as you give your all and work hard, you will always succeed," he said.
According to City of Windhoek Councillor Queen Kamati, the tournament aims to empower the youth residing in the informal settlements as well as to enhance their quality of life.
"Physical activity is a very good outlet to help minimize anti-social behavior and promote a culture of mass participation in sports activities, social cohesion and just a general sense of well-being. The city is happy to see youth teams that participate in regular sports activities on open fields throughout the city." ■