The making of a young football junkie – meet Shawn Kigondu
Shawn Kigondu, 13, is not your average teenager. Though the youngster is not a football player, he is a human memory card when it comes to matters football. He has a huge understanding of the game far beyond his age.
He knows his stuff through a combination of passion and research. As it turns out, young Shawn was inspired by his parents as he was growing up.
“At four years, my mum and my late dad, who were fans of football, introduced me to the sport.
Dad was an avid Arsenal supporter and mother always rooted for Manchester United. Somewhere in between, I chose Chelsea and that was the beginning of my relationship with football.
I was more interested in European football and the top players from the big leagues,” says the self-made statistician who is keen to work for United Kingdom’s pay television Sky Sports as an analyst.
Making use of free time
From the first World Cup in Uruguay (1930) to the heroics of the event in South Africa (2010), Shawn has established a niche as a shrewd statistics fellow who admits to spending almost all his free time researching.
“If I am not on computer, I am reading something related to football. Some friends think it is weird and mum feels I’m getting obsessed,” adds the Class Seven pupil at Brookfield Academy in Karatina, Nyeri county.
The first born of two, who is a Social Studies lover, also spends holidays playing FIFA Play Station. His interest on e-learning gives him extra motivation to learn his trade with much more fun.
“Since school time is practically off limits to research on football or play FIFA games, there is only so little I can do, which is frustrating.
However, when I’m at home and with my friends, I get that opportunity to dig more information on football,” he says.
His go-to sites or channels are mostly on Copa America Championships, European Cup Championships, UEFA Champions League and naturally the FIFA World Cup. Such is his dedication that, at times, his mother, Juddy Muthoni, worries about his well being.
“I do not want to interfere with his passion and as a parent, it is my duty to support him. I just pray it does not get him too preoccupied at the expense of other things,” says the businesswoman.
But she is consoled by the fact that Shawn is able to balance school, football and social life.
In a snap of a finger, he can count how many domestic championships clubs such as his beloved Barcelona and Manchester United have won.
He also know players who have made countries such as France, Spain and Brazil stand out in the global showpiece.
He is inspired by stars such as Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe. “I cannot call myself a genius, but I think my good memory plus the interest I have built for the last 10 years has brought me this far.” says Shawn who also loves swimming.
He mostly adores Spanish Football with their catchy “tiki-taka” brand, which has produced great players over the years such as Xavi Hernandez, Carlos Puyol, Iker Cassilas and Raul Gonzalez.
“The La Liga is the most tactical league in the world while the English Premiership is the most entertaining. Whenever I get an opportunity, I tune in to catch the game,” he says.
Sitting with him in a Cafe alongside his mother and younger sister, Shekinah Njoki, I am amazed. I pick his mind on different aspects of the game and I am left dumbfounded at his knowledge of the game.
On asking him about his thoughts of the 2018 World Cup that France won, he says he was not surprised about the development of new soccer giants.
“It was no fluke that Croatia was in the finals and Belgium in the semis. There is a new football order and if one does their research well, you notice that a lot of investment and development goes into such teams.
The old guns have been caught in a web and it will be tricky retaining status quo,” he says.
He goes on to surprise me when he reminisces about the 2005 European Champions League Final in Istanbul between Liverpool and AC Milan, which the former won.
“I watched the highlights and was impressed with Liverpool’s resilience.They were 3-0 down at the break, but came alive in the second half. It was one of the best finals I have watched in a while.
Remember, AC Milan had appeared in the finals 10 times, so this match was theirs to lose. However, after Paolo Maldini and a brace from Hernan Crespo, it seemed over, but the Reds came back with three goals from Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Vladimir Smicer to level up in an incredible six minutes.They won on penalties thereafter.
To me this was more than football; it was determination,” he posits.
Surprisingly, he has no interest in Kenyan football and knows little or nothing about it. Reason?
According to him, the local football has a long way to go. So he prefers following on big clubs and teams.
“I will do my bit as a parent to nurture his talent and help accelerate it if that is what he wants,” says his mother.
His uncle Paul Mahiaini also weighs in on Shawn’s talent and hopes parents with such children can be there the whole hog.
“I have always known Shawn to be dedicated and knowledgeable. Not so many adults can match his football understanding,” he says.