Connecting the Dots: From Kiva to Soccer and Back Again

It's World Cup time and Kiva isn't immune to the excitement as people around the globe pour themselves into the jubulance of the tournament. Soccer is a uniting force in communities that often appear to be vastly different (different regions, different languages, diffferent cultures) and over the course of the tournament we'll be sharing about the role soccer plays across Kiva's diverse communities.

In Uganda, an east African country the size of Minnesota, there are 41 different languages. However, the most valuable language in which I’m fluent is not actually a language at all, it’s soccer.
Soccer, unlike the dizzying blend of dialects across Uganda, is ubiquitous throughout the country and just as prevalent in urban and rural areas, across rich and poor communities, and among educated and uneducated people.
After arriving in Kampala, I spent my first Saturday wandering around my neighborhood looking for a place to play. Soon, while walking along a dirt road, I overheard yelling from atop a hill. I climbed up to find a field overlooking a great expanse of sky and rolling hills as a group of kids played soccer. Forty minutes later, I met Pius.

Prius's youth team huddles together before their match.
Pius, a local coach, invited me to train with his team and for the next two months I enjoyed playing with a committed group of teenagers and young adults from the area. Pius’ vision for the team reaches far beyond soccer, focusing on instilling area youth with community commitment, hard work, and charity. Pius grew up in Rubaga before playing professionally in the Ugandan league and now works to train a new generation of players not just in soccer but in life. After two months and a final training session in a torrential downpour I said goodbye to Pius and the team before moving from Kampala to my next assignment in Fort Portal. It was here I met Ibrahim.
Ibrahim, an Operations Officer at Hofokam, and I bonded quickly over watching soccer at a local bar a couple times a week. Then one day he revealed he was also from Rubaga and within a couple minutes I discovered that Pius and Ibrahim actually played together when they were younger.

Posing with Ibrahim, Operations Officer at Hofokam.
As I marveled at the coincidence, it brought to light the impact that both Kiva and soccer can have, the kind of impact that can change someone’s life, bring them joy after a long day, give them something to look forward to, or even connect a random guy from America to a coach in Kampala and a microfinance employee in rural western Uganda. Now together, through different paths, all three of us are working to improve people’s lives.
This summer 32 countries from around the world will compete in the zenith of sporting competition, the World Cup. Although the World Cup arouses in us incredible passions and patriotism, it also inspires an incredible sense of community and togetherness. It’s a great way to remember that there are so many things that unite us and when you help improve one person’s life, whether they’re your neighbor or a stranger from the other side of the planet you’re not just helping them, you’re helping all of us. Support fellow soccer fans and people by lending to a Hofokam borrower today!


About the author

Matt Ramirez

Usually the first (and only) to laugh at his own jokes, Matt values the power of humor and extroversion in connecting with people. He became interested in microfinance following a year in Malawi where he saw the ability for small business investments to have far reaching, positive effects and is excited to join this cause as a Kiva Fellow in Uganda. A Texas native, Matt’s first international experience came when he lived in Mexico City during elementary school. He graduated from NYU with a Psychology degree and Pre-Business minor before joining PepsiCo where he held roles in finance, strategy, and marketing. Looking to live abroad and work on a cause he was passionate about, Matt took a yearlong sabbatical to volunteer with Grassroot Soccer in Malawi where he helped implement HIV educational programs and community HIV testing events. He then co-founded Teen Support Line, a free phone counseling service for adolescents living with HIV in Malawi. Matt loves to travel and engage with new cultures and has spent time in Spain, Latin America, and southern Africa. Outside of work, he enjoys writing, soccer, and incessant movie/television quoting.