Lack of sporting equipment breeds creativity in Malawi lakeshore district of Mangochi

With a stick each and pushing small round-shaped fruits on a base made of bricks and mud, James Meya and Innocent Vincent look satisfied with what they have done for their village.

Starved of sporting facilities and equipment, two village boys in the lakeshore district of Mangochi develop an improvised billiard for a pool game using locally available resources.
What started as a childish idea has turned into an innovation adopted by many children in Kasanga Village
Meya breaking the game

The two, both aged 13 years, have developed an improvised table for a pool game using locally available resources in their home village, Kasanga in Mangochi.

“We decided to create a game that would keep us busy and prevent us from spending our precious time working for fishermen at the lake,” says Meya, the brain behind this innovative idea.

Armed with bricks, mud, an old mosquito net and tubes from old automobile tyres, the duo built a pool table based on the real design which Meya saw on his last trip to Monkey-Bay.

“I was attracted with how the game is played,” Meya says.

When he presented the idea to his friend Vincent, they agreed to have a similar game of their own in the village.

With bricks and mud, the two boys built the base and a full structure that resembles the modern pool table, with the usual six ball pockets

An old mosquito net is used as linen for the table’s floor while the pieces of rubber from the tyre’ tubes serve as cushion around the inside edges to help the solid balls bounce back.

For the cue balls, they pick fruits from a wild tree locally called matho, which they mark properly for easy identification.

As it is with modern pool, the balls are marked as solids and stripes, with a separate ball marked in white colour.

The game is played using the current international pool rules and regulations and most children in Kasanga have now found something to keep them busy.

Located about 60 kilometres from Mangochi Town in Traditional Authority Nankumba, Kasanga Village is one of the most under developed places off the coast of Lake Malawi.

Like most far-flung areas, access to modern equipment for sporting activities such as soccer, chess, draught and pool is hard.

This unfortunate situation fails many youths in realising their potential in various games. As a result, they end up pursuing activities risky to their lives and education.

“Because of lack of games, most children spend more time at the beach with fishermen where they are exposed to drinking alcohol, smoking and other adult materials,” says Meya.

He adds that the lure for quick money through piece works at the lake becomes addictive such that many children fail to go back to school.

This is one of the reasons the two boys decided to come up with this improvised game of pool.

“At first, it was a childish kind of idea and most people still think that what we have is childish play,” says Vincent.

“But to us, it is a game that we have created and it is entertaining. It keeps us together and away from bad behaviors.”

Since the development of this improvised table, many children in the area have adopted the idea and established their own tables for pool game.

“I can say that now young ones are better off than before. They have the game in their homes and it is keeping them busy,” says Meya, a standard six learner at St. Louis Primary School in Monkey Bay.

Mustapha Banda, 12, is one of the children who have developed their own local billiard for pool based on the idea by Meya and his colleague.

“It’s an exciting game that is helping us to spend the school holiday meaningfully,” says Banda.

The improvised game may look childish in the eyes of some but for group village head Kasanga, this creativity deserves all recognition.

For an area starved of access to modern equipment and facilities for various games, such innovations like the one by the two boys should be a welcome development, according to the chief.

“Our area does not have sports facilities and equipment. It is a big challenge that leads many youths to engage in activities detrimental to the realization of their aspirations,” group village head Kasanga says.

The chief adds that he treats the creation of the two boys as a demonstration of creativity and intelligence that should be nurtured.

But he is quite aware that not all places may have gifted people like these boys hence the call to government to provide adequate facilities and equipment for various sporting activities in rural areas.

District sports officer for Mangochi Nellie Seyani says games are good in the life development of youths such as Meya and Vincent.

“At their age, it is important that they have different games to play for their mental and physical growth,” Seyani says.

“It can also help them to compete at higher levels and build proper careers out of some of these games.”

Seyani appreciates the challenges government faces in sports and youth development in the country, which boil down to limited resources

“Government alone cannot manage to provide sports equipment and facilities to all places in the country. We need the support of well-wishers and interested groups to empower our youths with sporting materials,” she says.

For James Meya and Innocent Vincent, they have already taken the matter into their own hands in finding a solution to the gap in terms of access to proper sporting materials.

Even though some people laugh at their innovation, the boys feel proud of contributing positively to their village.

“The truth is that most kids are enjoying themselves. In future, I want to create something better than this,” says Meya.

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