04: HERI

In one of the harshest parts of the city lives a little girl named Heri. She always dreams of a better life. A life that will also improve the lives of the people who live in her neighbourhood. Her passion for soccer will make her face new challenges, take her to new places, win new friends and maybe even open doors for her to realise her dreams.

Story 4 of 7 More Detail

04 Heri

Ashura Masinde

Despite being a cosmopolitan and entirely modernised city, Nairobi still faced many challenges. Kenya was going through a period of transition after the fall of the Fisi Corporation and had taken measures to boost the economy, establish aid packages for the needy to eradicate hunger, extreme poverty and insecurity.

In the Mathare Valley, one of the biggest slums in Nairobi there lived a girl who had dreams of one day being able to help her people live a better life. Her name was Heri, and she was eight years old. Her father was a construction worker while her mother sold mandazi.

Heri loved video games and sports and usually got to travel to other countries or even assist in the most critical football championships using her VR-Mobile headband, which, when placed on her head, projected an immersive virtual hologram which transported her to other realities without having to leave her home. It also allowed her to clock her identity while pretending to be a young male his mid 20’s.

She would often tell her parents about her dreams of a better society and more significant benefits for her people. But her parents always said to her that such achievements were challenging to reach and that they had to settle for what they had.

One morning, while leaving school, Heri saw a group of children playing football on an improvised football court. They also had a floating holographic scoreboard registering the goals. Being her favourite sport, she approached them, and at first, she just watched. After a while, when they paused to rest, Heri approached them.
“Hello” she chirped. “do you mind letting me play with you?”
The children looked at her strangely. It was the first time they had seen her, and the fact that she was a girl seemed quite strange to them too.
“You are a girl!” said one of them at last. “Girls do not know how to play football”.
“Football is a sport for men”, said another of the boys. “You better go play with your dolls”.

Discouraged, Heri left the court. She would have liked to play with them. She was very good at sports, and she felt she would have taught them a thing or two had they let her play. However, she decided not to argue with them and went home to rest instead.

During the afternoon, Heri went to accompany her mother to do the shopping. While they were going through the market stalls, they chatted cheerily. On the way back, they went by to the same place where the children were playing. The boys were still there, now resting, with the ball a few meters away from where she was with her mother.
“Mom,” said Heri, “could you go ahead, please? There is something I would like to do here”.
Her mother turned to her and was surprised by the serious expression on Heri’s face. She rarely looked like that.
“Okay”, she answered, “but do not take long. Understood?”
“Do not worry; I’ll be home in time for dinner”, the little girl replied.

Heri then approached the ball and suddenly started kicking it. She began to do some pirouettes with it, and then she moved to the makeshift court where the boys were resting.
“Isn’t that the girl from this morning?” Asked one of them.
“Ya, I think it’s her”, said another. “And look how well she handles the ball!”
Heri ran with the ball towards one of the goals and the boys now excited followed her trying to take the ball away. One of them dashed forward into the goal towards which Heri was moving, planning to stop her shot. And despite the skills displayed by the boys, they could not stop her until she was finally in front of the goal.

With no other obstacle but the goalkeeper, she stopped in front of him and adjusted the ball giving him a chance to prepare himself. Once he was ready, she rolled the ball forward and rifled an unstoppable shot into the top corner with such speed that the little goalkeeper barely had time to move. Immediately, the floating holographic scoreboard registered Heri’s goal. Everyone watching was impressed. They had never seen anyone play football with such skill. Let alone a girl.
“That was amazing!” They all said, almost in unison. “What is your name?”
“I’m Heri”, said the girl smiling. “It’s nice to meet you”.

Excited by such great footballing skills, the children began to talk with Heri, who told them that she had spent years practising at her school and that football was her favourite sport. She even told them that she used to assist to virtual championships on her VR device as a male adult player to get more experience learning from the professionals. After one final game, Heri returned home, very happy to have shown her skills to her new friends.

Time went by, and every day after leaving school, Heri would meet her friends to play football, always trying not to be late at home so as not to neglect her school work. With each game, the number of spectators grew greater. Amongst the crowd, Heri would sometimes notice the presence of men in suits observing each game while taking notes on their holo-tablets. At first, she did not pay much attention to them, but later, she began to wonder why they paid so much attention in each game and what they were writing down.

One day, when she arrived at her house after a football game with her friends, she found that her parents were talking to one of the gentlemen who used to come to watch the game, as usual, he was dressed in elegant clothes and had his holo-tablet in his hands. As she arrived, everyone looked at her smiling as the man spoke.
“So, you are Heri,” said the man. “Nice to finally meet you”.
Heri was a bit surprised but introduced herself and sat on the couch next to her parents.
“I’ve seen you play with the children every afternoon”, he went on.
“And you’re actually really good”.
“Thank you” the girl answered, “but why are you here? Did I do something wrong?” she asked with some concern.
“Mr Okumbi is FIFA’s representative in Kenya,” said Heri’s dad. “He says he’s looking for new talent to train professionally, and he’s very interested in you”.
“Yes Heri,” said Mr Okumbi. “We had followed your performance for quite a long time, even before you started playing with your friends. It took a while, but we were able to discover that the anonymous player who usually attends the virtual tournaments organised by FIFA is you. That’s why we’re here”.
“It would be a unique opportunity for you, darling,” said her mother. “You are very good at football, and it could take you to all the places you dreamt of.”

Heri was excited. It had never occurred to her that her love for football could lead her to perform professionally. Very animatedly, she began to talk to the man, who, while he was showing her images on his holo-tablet, told her that she could start playing for the Kenyan women’s team and increase her level there. He also said to her that she would have rigorous training since professional football requires a lot of discipline.

All agreed that Heri should begin her career as a professional football player, which made Heri’s believe her hopes for helping her people could come true. Years passed, and after a lot of training and work and sacrifice, Heri having managed to enter the national team of Kenya went on to become one of the most successful players in the world and even take her country to the Women’s World Cup, reaching the highest positions. Thanks to her effort and dedication, Heri finally managed to fulfil her dream. Her income had allowed her to provide help not only to Mathare Valley but to most of the unfortunate parts of Kenya, supporting and directing her own humanitarian organisation, with which she managed to guarantee improvements in food, health and quality of life for the population. All this thanks to her never stopping to believe in the power of her dreams

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