FC Vito is about to embark on a journey of a lifetime. The football team, consisting of 11-year-old girls from Tanzania, will fly to faraway Finland to participate in the annual international football tournament, Helsinki Cup, to play against children from all over the world. The players have practiced meticulously and look forward to testing their skills in action. Wärtsilä supports FC Vito through Finnish non-governmental organisation LiiKe.
FC Vito was born from an idea presented by the Embassy of Finland in Tanzania. The football team, which features different participants each year, consists of Tanzanian children – boys and girls in alternating years – from different parts of the country. This year’s team, FC Vito Malaika, is the fifteenth in all and hails from the town of Nachingwea. The team is organised and supported by LiiKe Ry, a Finnish non-governmental organisation that develops the lives of children in developing countries through sport and health education.
The goal of the project is not only to take the children to play in a tournament thousands of kilometres away, but to support their academic achievements as well. Monthly donations ensure that team members are able to finish their secondary education. By providing the equipment and facilities for sports, LiiKe Ry encourages the children to stay in school and focus during class.
“Football strengthens the self-esteem and determination of these children. It allows them to find new qualities in themselves and teaches them to work together for a common goal. The trip to play in Helsinki Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but the benefits of the project will last much longer and, hopefully, change the lives of the children for the better,” says Ari Koivu, Executive Director of LiiKe. “In Nachingwea, football is considered a masculine sport, but FC Vito Malaika, the Angels, will show that girls have a right to play as well. This gives confidence to all girls and women in this rural town.”
Team play takes practice
The name of FC Vito means ‘rough diamonds’. According to Jonna Kaihua, who was coaching the girls for two months as part of her education, that is indeed what they were when she first met them.
“The girls had practiced together only for a few months. They had remarkable skills in handling the ball individually, but they were not yet quite as far when it came to playing as a team, so that’s what we worked on,” she says. “There was no even field to play on, and practice games were against boys as there were no other girl’s teams. But the girls train five days a week and are very determined to improve their game. I’m sure they will do a great job at the cup.”
Cooperation is key
The LiiKe organisation works together with Wärtsilä to equip the FC Vito team and bring them to Finland for Helsinki Cup. Wärtsilä supports FC Vito’s tournament trip by participating in the travel costs. Wärtsilä has long-standing operations and valued customers in different parts of Africa, and the company sees involvement in community projects as a natural part of its local interaction.
“Wärtsilä is a truly global company, with operations in more than 170 countries. Supporting the well-being of local communities where Wärtsilä is present is an important part of our sustainability and social responsibility endeavours. We see ourselves as part of those communities, and if they thrive, we thrive,” says Atte Palomäki, Executive Vice President, Communications, from Wärtsilä.