“Oh, a Kenyan ball,” said the Cameroonian Minister for Youth and Sport. “Next time, you should use a Cameroonian ball.”
Overcoming his surprise, the Minister then tells us about the Cameroonian Society for the Employment of Youth (RIFMAS) which runs a programme called Fabrication du Materiel Sportif.
“We employ youths to produce footballs and nets. We have 35 employees in four regions of the country. We produce footballs because the public demands them. We sell the balls produced to schools at a very good price.”
The Minister insists that we meet Levi Herve Oyono, the Director of RIFMAS. Andrew tells Levi that The Ball was hit by a car in Abidjan and taken to hospital, where it was bandaged up.
“Ah, you can get it repaired at our stitching centre,” says Levi, as he inspects The Ball.
“No,” says Andrew, “it’s going back to Alive & Kicking in Kenya to be restitched. The panels can’t be replaced, but could The Ball get a patch?”
“Okay, no problem,” comes the reply. “You can visit our workshop in Yaounde.”
The next day, we arrive at Fabrication du Materiel Sportif. The Ball Doctor is waiting for us. His name is Bekala Florent Esto and, with practiced hands, he slowly and gently examines The Ball’s wound.
His diagnosis? “I’ll remove this panel and stitch a patch of leather over the wound. It is a great pleasure for me to repair this great ball. I heard about The Ball on the radio and I am honoured to do this.”
With the care of a professional surgeon, The Ball Doctor removes the damaged panel, and glues a carefully cut strip of leather over the hole on the panel’s underside. Then, he stitches the leather strip on to the panel and the panel back on to The Ball. It is a fine operation and shows his splendid skill and craftsmanship.
The Doctor weighs The Ball in at 3.5kg. Fit as a football. He pumps The Ball up and it’s ready for use again. Its roundness is even back once more. He measures it as 76cm.
“Slightly oversize,” he says.
It’s quite unusual for a patient to get a good kicking after an operation, but in this case, that’s exactly what happens.