Tuesday 14 March 2023, 20:30

FIFA Legends pay visit to the UMURI Foundation in Kigali

  • 11 Legends visited a Rwandan charity in Kigali

  • The Foundation uses football as a tool for social change with young children

  • The founder is former Rwandan international footballer, Jimmy Mulisa

It’s not every day that a team of eleven football legends joins you to play football. That was the treasured experience of young boys and girls in the Rwandan capital of Kigali today, as a FIFA Legends XI came to town. The UMURI Foundation is a Rwandan charity and social enterprise formed in 2018 by former Rwandan international footballer Jimmy Mulisa. After seeing that children in Rwanda wanted to play football but were trapped in poverty, without access to equal opportunities, Mulisa founded the UMURI Foundation to empower youth through education and sport. The Foundation aims to use football as a tool for social change, empowering young people in the country, nurturing them to be change makers, and positive citizens in their communities. The core values of the Foundation’s work are integrity, innovation, inclusiveness, and gender equality.

Speaking to Beyond Sport in an interview in 2021, Mulisa said: “Football has an influence to get these children off the streets. Nothing makes these children happier than gathering at a place like this and playing. With this initiative, we can then have a conversation with them and look at how they can start a new life in families and take them back to school. That’s all we want. “I can’t forget that my football career started from the street, and I think it can be of good importance if I go back there and give a helping hand to other young talents aspiring to become great players in the future.” In a big surprise for the children supported by the Foundation, some of Africa’s finest exponents of the beautiful game donned their boots to join them in a match. Khalilou Fadiga, Portia Modise, Lucas Radebe, Asamoah Gyan, Kwadwo Asamoah, Houssine Kharja, Perpetua Nkwocha and Pierre Webo took to the pitch alongside Maia Jackman, Wes Brown and Cafu. Despite the lead-grey skies in Kigali, there were dazzling smiles on display as the Legends displayed their skills, as well as sat down to speak individual to the children.

Three-time FIFA World Cup finalist and two-time champion Cafu reflected on the significance of the visit: "It is important to come and interact with kids, and to know the work that Jimmy and their Foundation are doing. Football is a social transformation tool, and you see how these kids are getting an education, learning lessons that they will take away for the rest of their lives." Portia Modise was another of the FIFA Legends to visit, and an inspiration to some of the young girls present. In an international career that spanned 124 caps and an incredible 101 goals, Modise was also renowned for championing equality. When penning an autobiography about her life last year, the iconic former Banyana Banyana striker explained how she wanted to ‘inspire the next generation but, most importantly, emphasise the importance of education.” Speaking after meeting the young players today, she was clearly energised. "It is heartening to see girls getting involved with football and the boys encouraging them to play. We heard life changing stories and I want to congratulate Jimmy for all he does for these kids. It gives them motivation and focus to move forward in their lives.”