Samuel Ekiru: Blind boy from Turkana aspiring to be next big thing in football commentary

Samuel Ekiru

Samuel Ekiru during the interview in Kakuma on April 17, 2021.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Ekiru says that he is impressed with Drury’s commentary and would like to be a commentator like the Briton in future.
  • “I just love the way Drury does his commentary. I would like to be like him, or even better. My dream is to meet him one day and share my story. I know it shall come to pass, although I don’t know when,” Ekiru, who is a fan of Manchester United, said.

Football is no doubt the most popular sport in the world with 100 of millions of fans across the globe.

Football superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, or teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, among others, have huge fan base globally.

These superstars and teams owe part of their success to match commentators, the men and women with vast knowledge in football who relay the match live on TV. Indeed a match is never complete without good commentary.

If proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten, then good commentary is a key accompaniment with which fans watch live matches on TV.

A good commentary provides match context, taking the fan back and forth in time to make meaning of the current situation.

Names of world-famous football commentators like Peter Drury, Jim Beglin and Jon Champion immediately come to mind.

They don’t just have a good mastery of the English language to enable them effortlessly convey meaning, but they have also been in football for the years and they have mastered both the sport, and names of players and coaches.

But there could be another Drury in the making in Lodwar, Turkana County.

Twenty-five-year-old Samuel Ekiru who is partially blind has a good mastery of English, and can talk with a deep British accent, pretty much like Drury, yet he can hardly see beyond one metre. Last year, a video of him doing football commentary went viral.

Nation Sport team that travelled 800 kilometres from Nairobi to Kakuma in Turkana County found out that Ekiru hasn’t let his circumstances define him.

Partially blind and born in abject poverty in Turkana which is one of Kenya’s most marginalised areas, the 25-year-old hopes to build on his talent to realize his dream in sport, with some inspiration from a commentary booth thousands of kilometres in the UK.

Turkana County has a rough terrain and harsh conditions, and talented sports men and women from the region are not spared these challenges.

Samuel Ekiru

Samuel Ekiru (left) and Mary Lomojo during the interview in Kakuma on April 17, 2021.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

As we arrive at the township that hosts refugees from other countries, we find Ekiru waiting for us. He lives with his guardian Mary Lomojo.

He is an aspiring football commentator, and the idea literally came to him from a dream.

“One night I dreamt that I am a football commentator. I didn’t believe it; after that, I believed that I could do it, but the only problem is that I can’t see much of the action because of my poor eyesight,” he explains.

Ekiru is partially blind, but his ailment is yet to be diagnosed.

“My eye condition came about as a young child. It started out as pain in my eyes, then it developed into what it is now. I was less than five years old at the time,” he says.

Ekiru hails from Kalobeyei in Turkana West Constituency, along the Lodwar-Lokichoggio road. His parents, who are nomads and pastoralists, abandoned him because he was of little help to them owing to his condition.

“In Turkana, our parents keep moving from one area to another in search of pasture. They risk attack from bandits and each time they moved with livestock, I was left behind because I couldn’t help them fight,” says Ekiru, who was born among three boys and three girls.

One day while his parents left him behind in 2006, he met Mary Lomojo, a good Samaritan who enrolled him at Katilu Integrated School For the Blind in Turkana, and housed him in Kakuma when schools closed. She became his guardian.

Samuel Ekiru

Samuel Ekiru takes a stroll in Kakuma on April 17, 2021.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

But Ekiru’s mother showed up one day in 2012 and requested to take her son home with her for sometime. He would drop out of school after some time.

“I met Mama (Mary Lomojo) here (in Kakuma) and she helped me go back to school. I would also stay with her when schools close but that didn’t go far again because I dropped out of school at Class Six,” he narrates.

He dropped out of Katilu Integrated School For the Blind, and failed to link up with both his real and foster parents.

While at school, they could watch English Premier League matches at the school’s entertainment hall, and he developed an interest.

“Given a chance, I would have loved to go and learn more on commentary but I have one challenge, I can’t see well but I hope one day I will be able to do away with this challenge,” he explains.

Samuel Ekiru

Samuel Ekiru watches an English Premier League football match between Newcastle United football club and West Ham United football club in Kakuma on April 17, 2021.
 

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Ekiru says that he is impressed with Drury’s commentary and would like to be a commentator like the Briton in future.

“I just love the way Drury does his commentary. I would like to be like him, or even better. My dream is to meet him one day and share my story. I know it shall come to pass, although I don’t know when,” Ekiru, who is a fan of Manchester United, said.

Three years ago, Lomojo found out that Ekiru had been at Kakuma Refugee Camp and they were reconnected.

He had been learning basic computer skills under a programme run by an organisation called Handicapped International.

Lomojo, a fan of Arsenal, visited movie theaters at Kakuma Shopping Centre and bought a television, then Ekiru trooped back to her home.

Last year, a video of him imitating Drury’s commentary went viral. He became famous and people around the world wanted to know more about him.

The video reached Drury via NTV journalist Idah Waringa, and the Briton reached out to Ekiru.

“Hi Samuel, its Peter here in England. I’ve been so interested, so moved to hear of your story and I’m so grateful that we’ve been put in touch with each other. Kenya is a country I’ve never visited. Nairobi, Turkana…they feel like faraway places to me but I feel somehow we have become connected by our shared love for football.

“I understand that you enjoy hearing me talk about football and that that’s helped you learn some English and given you a real interest and passion and that’s fantastic…but let me tell you that hearing your story inspires me a whole lot more.

I know that life isn’t particularly easy for you, I know you have real trouble particularly with your vision and I really hope that there is a way to heal your eyesight and improve that situation for you.

“In the meantime, I love the thought that you would love to be a football commentator and you should pursue that dream with everything you’ve got. It’s all about passion, it’s about loving it, its all about words and finding a way to express yourself and I know that you can do that.

So please keep doing that, keep enjoying your football, keep looking after yourself, keep believing, keep dreaming. I’m so thrilled that we’re connected and across the oceans I hope we can remain friends. Good luck, take care, bye,” Drury told him in a video address to Ekiru after NTV journalist Idah Waringa informed the Briton about the aspiring commentator.

“Ekiru has good talent and his commentary is on another level. He needs support. I would have loved to enrol him in a commentary course to enable him do commentaries in local football or even internationally. He has good English and he just needs support,” Lomojo says.

“If Ekiru succeeds in life he can even go look for his parents and help them. Society will be inspired to see the blind boy from that home in Turkana back helping his family. Parents should embrace children with disability,” says Lomojo.

Dr Muksesh Joshi, a consultant ophthalmologist said: “Looking at the photograph we cannot just diagnose his ailment completely off pictures, but thanks to tele-medicine now I can see that one eye has a scar on the cornea.

Cornea is the front part of the eye. Cornea can become damaged due to various reasons.

Commonest in this part of the world is known as Keratoconus, where the cornea loses the shape and becomes like a rugby ball. Sometimes it could be measles. So corneal blindness is quite common.

He also added that, “Second thing is trachoma. It’s a viral infection, very much common in Turkana, in Narok, and in central Kenya. That can give rise to scars. We normally do various types of scans, so if the scan is normal then maybe we can plan a corneal transplant.”

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