Football tournament promotes conservation in Kenya

As the UK looks forward to a summer of football with the Euros kicking off this month, Born Free’s ‘Kick to Conserve’ initiative is continuing to demonstrate the impact football can have for wild animals and communities.

Playing Football as part of Born Free's Kick to Conserve Initiative

Playing Football as part of Born Free’s Kick to Conserve Initiative

Sport can be a vital tool for conservationists, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and energising them to engage with conservation. ‘Kick to Conserve’, an initiative run by Born Free in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service, uses football as a medium through which to sensitise and educate communities about conservation. Gilbert Bosco is the coach of our team – dubbed the ‘Bush-Trackers FC’ – and he gives his account of the latest football tournament held in Kenya.

Earlier this year, a local school bordering Meru National Park set the stage for an exceptional event – a football tournament with conservation at its centre. Tournaments such as these are a beacon of hope for human-wildlife coexistence, providing a platform to sensitise, educate and engage with community members about wildlife conservation.

This tournament was made possible by the collaborative efforts of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Born Free Foundation, and the local community. For this tournament, the passionate and skilful Bush-Trackers FC players, each represented their home teams.

Invitations to the tournament were extended to eight teams across the region. It was an invitation that could not be ignored, and to our delight, all eight teams answered enthusiastically. This was not just any tournament; it was an inspiring event returning to the roots of community goodwill to promote peace with wildlife and encourage coexistence. With this as our guiding light, we embarked on a memorable journey over the two-day tournament.


Born Free Team with the Trophies

Born Free Team with the Trophies

The tournament kicked off with speeches from myself in my role as the Bush-Trackers FC head coach, Michael Mugo as Born Free’s Pride of Meru programme manager, and members of the hosting community, emphasising the importance of conservation, peace, and community awareness. The messages resonated deeply with everyone present.

The teams, all from local areas, were divided into two evenly matched pools to make the competition tough. They battled valiantly for points to advance to the next stage. The teams from Baibariu, Jillodima, Kathangachini, and Mbubune showcased their skills in Pool A, while the teams from Madinna, Taqwa, Twathanju, and Ntoroni dominated Pool B. In a thrilling final, Taqwa emerged as the champions, triumphing over Madinna, while Baibariu secured third place by defeating Jillodima.

It was heartwarming to see players from different backgrounds come together, not only competing but also bonding, laughing, and showing respect – even after a couple of particularly rough fouls! This display of unity reaffirmed everyone’s belief that sport, especially football, can be a powerful tool for spreading conservation messages and unity.


Celebrating a Win!

Celebrating a Win!

Through events like these, we bridge the gap between communities and wildlife, fostering a harmonious coexistence where both can thrive. KWS and Born Free have been instrumental in this endeavour, tirelessly working to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts and raise awareness.

As the tournament drew to a close, we could not help but feel grateful for the opportunity to be part of something truly impactful. Our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone involved – from the organisers to the teams and the communities at large. Let’s continue to join hands and strengthen the bond between humans and wildlife, one kick at a time!