Kenyan boy Lawrence Masira has described it as a “life changing” moment, after travelling to Egypt for the Total Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) under the Visa player mascot programme.
Masira was a player mascot during the Madagascar vs Tunisia quarter-final match at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo and he has described that day as one that will forever be inked in his memory.
But that is not where the story begins. Up until the beginning of this year, Masira was your normal kid, grazing his parent’s cattle on the outskirts of Nairobi and engaging in a kick-about with friends at the end of a long day.
But all that began to change for the better in December 2018 when Kenyan journalist Eric Njiru snapped him herding the cows home in Lang’ata area in the outskirts of Nairobi with an old Arsenal jersey with ‘Ozil 10’ inscribed at the back with a marker pen.
POSTED PHOTO ON TWITTER
Njiru posted the photo on Twitter, tagging Arsenal star Mesut Ozil who saw the tweet after a while and sent Masira and his team, now called Ozil FC, an assortment of jerseys, balls and sporting equipment.
That was the beginning of the story.
So touched was Ozil with the fact that his small kind deed gained so much traction that he once again sent in another set of kits for Masira and his friends.
Caf partners, Visa, picked up the inspirational story and enrolled Masira into the Afcon programme.
“It felt really good. I was so happy to have that chance.
“The Madagascar and Tunisia players were very friendly and it was a good experience to meet them. I think my life has changed forever and I will never forget those moments,” Masira said. “Being in Egypt was great; to watch the tournament live was unbelievable.
“We even had a chance to see the pyramids and River Nile. Everyone at school is happy and they all want to join me next time,” he said.
Journalist Njiru now looks back with pride seeing what just a simple tweet in December has changed a young boy’s life.
“This is what journalism is about, changing people’s lives. I am so glad that opportunities have opened up for Lawrence and I want to thank Ozil for responding because if he didn’t, we wouldn’t be here today,” Njiru told CafOnline.com.
Visa, the world’s leader in digital payments and official sponsor of the prestigious tournament, gave the lucky children the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be player escorts as part of its “Unstoppable Stories” campaign, which was launched in earlier this year.
The player escorts, who were also treated to a three-day trip to the capital city, were Edwin Nyandoro (eight), Hope Wambui Ochieng (eight), Masira (10), Roman Gituku (7) and Samantha Wambui (6).
The children were identified through the “Unstoppable Stories” campaign for the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations, which called upon children to share their stories and inspirations of what makes them or their heroes unstoppable.
Commenting on the occasion, Victor Ndlovu, Visa’s Country Manager for Kenya said: “Visa is a long-standing supporter of football and we are proud to be leveraging our sponsorship of the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations in such a positive way“It was heart-warming to witness the joy of the player escorts as they led the players into the stadium.
“The special moment marked the culmination of weeks of preparation since the “Unstoppable Stories” campaign was launched. Congratulations to each of the player escorts who represented Kenya with honour in front of a global audience and to everyone who contributed to the success of the inspirational campaign.”
“Travelling to Cairo and being a player escort was a huge honour and incredible experience,” an excited Wambui said.
“Leading the football players into the stadium in front of a cheering crowd was a memory that I will treasure forever and I would like to thank Visa for making it possible.”
Gituku’s mother Ann Wangare added: “I was extremely proud to watch my son escort the players onto the pitch. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and it is was a moment I will cherish forever.”
Story by Visa and Caf Online