Children who grew up between the 80’s and 90s are synonymous with mpira za jualaa (polythene paper balls).
The highlight of these balls was how they were tactfully made from layers of polythene paper strapped tightly together with sisal rope. The popular balls would be kicked around the neighborhood field all day, coming back home dirty and tattered.
With time though, the paper balls have been replaced with leather and plastic balls, especially now that there is an active polythene paper ban.
This has been made worse by the influx of computer generated games which don’t enable kids to step out to play. However, there is still a chance to bring back the lost paper memories, thanks to one businessman, Ntakuritimana Evariste.
Evariste is the brains behind handwoven footballs for children. His unique footballs come in two types; one is made from a normal pressure tube covered with clothing and intertwined with thread. The other type is made using soft polystyrene material often used in packing electronics for shipping.
“Initially, I was making them using pure polythene paper, but since they were banned I introduced tube. This is much easier since the ball’s pressure can be regulated accordingly,” he said.
Evariste says the idea to make these unique balls was born 19 years ago while he was still living in Rwanda. He says a mzungu friend gifted him a leather football which soon got damaged from wear and tear.
This forced him to patch it back to a makeshift ball. Over the years, he has mastered the art of weaving together different materials to come up with functional balls.
“I cover the rubber tube with thick water-resistant materials and soft cloth, then I use a thread to mend it together. The other one is simple; I follow the same process, only that I carve the polystyrene in different sizes, he says.”
The tube-type football retails between Sh400 and Sh2000 depending on its size, while the polystyrene-type retails between Sh100 and Sh500, also depending on its size.