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Soccer Team (Fortune FC)

Fortune FC Soccer Team

Fortune FC

Fortune FC Soccer / football team

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Fortune FC is a football team based in Kirinyaga, Kenya that focuses on uplifting our community through football.

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Fortune Sacco Fighting Drug Abuse through Football

Samwel Muriuki, a 26 year old former Fortune FC player and three other former colleagues for an interview, he was looking jovial, focused and energetic as one would expect of a young man his age.

Those familiar with him, however, will tell you that he has not always been this focused. Before he joined the Kerugoya based Fortune FC, a football club wholly sponsored by Fortune Sacco, in 2013, the situation was very different. He was a hopeless drunk with little or no interest in his own future, a common thing with youths from his Mukinduri neighborhood those days.

Muriuki comes from a humble background and after completing his secondary education, life was difficult for him so he resulted to drinking as a way of combating stress. Owing to the fact that the main playground is located within his home area, he began playing football for leisure, mostly when he could not afford a drink. This saw him land a spot with a local football club before joining Fortune FC.

Joining Fortune FC now meant that Muriuki had to be at the playing field every day starting One O’clock in the afternoon, leaving him very little time to be with his drinking buddies. With time, he stopped drinking and used his football allowances to buy a motorbike with which he now ekes out a living after retiring from football. Today, Muriuki is married with a two year old child, a dream he thought unattainable back in 2013.

Muriuki’s is not an isolated case. It is just one of the many cases that show how Fortune Sacco is saving youths from the grip of drug abuse through football. What appears on the surface as a welcome coincidence, football coming in to save youths from drug abuse, is actually a carefully thought-out strategy hatched and implemented by the Fortune Sacco board and management.

Fortune FC was began in 2011, with the blessings of the provincial administration as a move to curb illicit brew in Kirinyaga District, according to Peter Muriithi, the club’s Team Manager and a Finance Officer at Fortune Sacco.  At the time, Fortune Sacco provided playing kits for 36 football clubs drawn from all over Kirinyaga County. Later, the Sacco decided to focus its sponsorship on Fortune FC, a club that has players drawn from all over the county, as opposed to offering partial sponsorship to the 36 clubs.

Fortune Sacco feared for the future of the movement, hence, decided to come up with a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program that not only assisted the community but also brought the youth back into the movement, according to the Sacco Chairman, Mr. Dickson Karai.

“We noticed that drug abuse was a major problem in Kirinyaga County, especially in Mukinduri area, so we decided to combat it by sponsoring football activities. As a sacco, we always try to identify ourselves with the emerging issues in the society,” says Mr. Karai.

Prior to sponsoring football, Fortune’s CSR focused on a wide range of activities including sponsoring health camps, volleyball tournaments, darts tournaments and visiting homes for the less privileged among others. At first, the club derived its funding from the sacco’s marketing department, now it has its own independent budget.

“Previously, we sponsored various clubs in all our seven operational zones within the county but later decided to focus on Fortune FC as it was the more effective way to help the youths earn a living, not just in the short term but also in the long term,” explains Mr. Karai.

According to Mr. Timothy Muthike, the organization’s Operations Manager, the sacco settled on football due to its ability to bring huge crowds together, especially the youths. This year, the sacco plans to also support grassroots clubs by donating uniforms and other kits.

Time has proved the approach taken by the chairman and his management team to be an effective strategy going by the testimonies from the beneficiaries of the football program. Wilson Muriuki, 30, was recruited to Fortune FC from Kerugoya Bombers in 2012, then aged 24. At first he was motivated into joining the club by the slightly better allowances compared to his previous club. Through the club, he joined Fortune Sacco, started saving, and began accessing credit. Thanks to Fortune FC and the saving culture cultivated in him by Fortune Sacco, Muriuki, now a retired footballer, owns a taxi from which he ekes out a living.

Just like Wilson, Benson Muchiri, then aged 18, joined Fortune FC from a Mwea based club after Fortune’s recruiters spotted him during a tournament. He too joined Fortune Sacco, saved, took a loan, and now owns a thriving M-Pesa shop.

The benefits the youths gain from being part of the Fortune Sacco sponsored club go way beyond money. Benson Muchiri, 23, was still playing for Fortune Sacco when he got recruited to join the Kenya Defence Forces. He believes that the physical exercise training from the his football days played a huge role in helping him to not only clinch the KDF position but also persevere the tough training.

“Without the discipline instilled in me by the Fortune FC Coach, I don’t think I could have made it,” says Muchiri.

Fortune FC playing at the provincial level has given the players, most of whom are locals, exposure as they get to travel beyond their home county for games, according to Mr.  Muthike.  Other than the players, local youths take advantage of the matches, offered without stadium entry fees, to start small businesses hawking wares such as drinks and snacks.

“I am really proud of the progress made by one of our loyal fans. When we began, he was so deep into drugs that most people couldn’t stand his presence. Then he began hawking stuff during match days. Today, he doesn’t drink anymore and pays his expenses to all our matches wherever they may be!” says Mr. Muthike.

Fortune FC also serves as a launch pad for talented players to showcase their skills enabling them better opportunities elsewhere. Three former Fortune FC players are now playing abroad, having been poached from the club. Francis Muturi plays in Germany after a stint with Thika United, Muhamed Abdi plays in Somalia while yet another former player plays in Japan.

Fortune Sacco’s commitment to sponsoring football has yielded some benefits for the organization too. It has helped attract youths into the sacco which has assisted it shed the perception of a farmers-only organization. Most football clubs in the county, including the regional branch of Football Kenya Federation, have opened accounts with the sacco. Fortune FC has raised the profile of the organization making it an easy product to market.

However, running the CSR program has not been easy for Fortune Sacco. Convincing the board and management to allocate resources for a CSR project whose benefits were not immediately visible was not easy, according to the sacco chairman, Mr. Karai. This 2018/2019 football season the tier two Sacco projects to spend over KES 1.2 million on the football club alone. Despite the financial challenges, the club has does not charge spectators any gate entry fees so as to enable as many youths as possible to participate.

The cost of maintaining the playing field is high. Hiring policemen and stewards to conduct crowd control during high stake games is also costly, according Mr. Muthike, the sacco’s Operations Manager.

Luckily for Fortune Sacco, the board Chairman, Mr. Karai, the Operations Manager, Mr. Muthike and the Finance Officer, Mr. Muriithi are active sportsmen and very passionate about  youth empowerment.

Mr. Karai, a retired headteacher, is the current treasurer of Athletics Kenya, Kirinyaga County. He was the chairman Kenya Primary School Sports Association, KIPSA, Kirinyaga County, until 2017. He is also the immediate former Vice Chairman of KIPSA, Central Kenya region.

Mr. Muriithi, the longest serving Fortune Sacco employee, has served as Fortune FC team manager since the club began. He played for Kirinyaga District Cooperative Union Strikers as a player cum team manager until it folded up in 1998.

Mr. Muthike, the sacco’s Operations Manager who also serves as the club’s secretary,is also  Football Kenya Federation’s treasurer, Mt. Kenya Region.

Upon retirement from football, Fortune Sacco tries to make the transition easy for retiring footballers by offering them internship at the organization. A few lucky ones are funded to start own businesses. This at times becomes a source of frustration for retiring players.

“Most Fortune FC players expect to be employed in the sacco after retirement from football. Unfortunately, we are unable to absorb all, leaving some frustrated,” explains Mr. Karai.

Thanks to the support from the Sacco leadership and dedication from the players, Fortune FC has performed consistently well emerging the winner in the Division One league, 2018 season. This has seen them get promoted to the National Super League, only a step away from the Kenya Premier League. Fortune FC joined the Provincial League in 2013, the National Super League Division Two in 2015, and the National Super League Division One in 2016. The club has consistently finished among the top contenders in Division One, since 2016.

“Despite its successes,” says Mr. Muriithi, the club’s manager, “Fortune FC has not moved from its core duty of keeping youths off social vices.”

Considering the far both the players and the club have come, Fortune FC is convinced that the future can only be brighter. When the club began in 2011, most players were leisure players not used to the demands of competitive sport. Players were hired on trial basis with poor allowances and not enough kits.

Fortune FC still faces several challenges. The Mukinduri playground which has served as the club’s home ground is still below the standards required by Football Kenya Federation, hence, cannot be used for the National Super League games. The club management is looking to have either Kianyaga or Kirinyaga Stadium as the club’s new home ground. With the promotion to the National Super League, the club’s financial needs have increased tremendously forcing the club to seek additional sponsors.

“We hope to take this club to the Kenya Premier League soon. We are currently exploring the possibility of placing it under a foundation as a way of getting it more sponsors,” says Mr. Karai.

The approach taken by Fortune Sacco, combating social vices through football has already borne fruit. Four retired Fortune FC players are themselves giving back to the community in their own small way. Wilson, Benson, Samwel, and Morris are coaching young children to encourage them to realize their talents early. Wilson hopes to take this a step further by starting a talent academy in Kerugoya.

The effort by Fortune Sacco is a good example of what the cooperative movement can achieve with well implemented Corporate Social Responsibility programs. This gives credence to a recent push spearheaded by the Cooperative Alliance of Kenya, CAK, to consolidate the movement’s CSR activities in the form of a Cooperative Development Foundation.  So doing will make the CSR activities of the movement more visible, according to CAK Executive Director, Mr. Daniel Marube. Fortune Sacco Operations Manager, Timothy Muthike, observes that the foundation was a timely idea.

“The foundation is a good idea for the movement as long as it is run independently, with little or no influence from the individual societies,” says Mr. Muthike.

Fortune Sacco Chairman, Mr. Karai advises other members of the cooperative movement to embrace corporate social responsibility as a way of improving the living standards of the communities within which they do business.

“For your CSR program to succeed, you need to first have the goodwill of your key decision makers,” advises Mr. Karai.

Supporting Fortune FC is part of the sacco’s vision to create an empowered community with improved living standards.

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