Residents of Peterborough, Ont., probably didn’t expect their city to make international headlines as the host of the 2019 FIL Women’s Lacrosse U-19 World Championships. But that’s exactly what happened, thanks to a gift from the Israeli team that was given to their opponents from Kenya.
The two sides played against each other on Aug. 6, in a game that team Israel won 13-4. The game had been postponed for an hour because of a rain delay, and when the teams took to the field, the Israelis noticed the Kenyans were having trouble keeping their footing on the wet field, because they didn’t have proper footwear.
Michael Duvdevani, the father of one of the girls on team Israel, said he was “shocked” when he learned the Kenyan team was playing without cleats, calling it “unacceptable.”
Duvdevani is no stranger to footwear. He owns Complete Feet, a specialty retail store and custom orthotic clinic, so he knows how important it is to be properly equipped. That’s why he reached out to the Kenyan coach and offered to buy cleats for the whole team. Then he went to work finding a local store in Peterborough that had enough inventory on hand to accommodate the team, with other parents on the Israeli team pitching in to cover the cost.
The next day, the Kenyan coach brought his team to watch Israel’s game against Belgium, under the guise of scouting the Belgian team. At the end of the game, the Israeli team surprised the Kenyan team with cleats, each one assigned to a player with her name and number. The girls from the two teams hugged and laughed during the gift exchange, and supported each other for the rest of the tournament.
“It was special because we wanted our girls to learn a lesson of how little things to us are big things to other people,” Duvdevani said.
My daughter, he continued, “said it made her feel really good and she wants to do stuff like that more, because it was really fun.… That was all I needed to hear.”
When the Israeli and Kenyan teams played once again later in the tournament, the Israelis still won, this time by a score of 11-10.
Many Kenyan people expressed disappointment on social media that the Kenyan government did not ensure that its lacrosse team was properly equipped, with some even going so far as to call it criminal or a disgrace. Others argued that the problem is not that the Kenyan government cannot afford shoes, but that it’s corrupt and mismanages its funds.