Tanzanian Woman Feeds Family with Soccer Ball Skills

21 March, 2019

A Tanzanian woman is travelling around Africa demonstrating her soccer ball skills as a way to feed her family.

Her name is Hadhara Charles Mjeje. Short videos of her in action have received a lot of attention on social media. Last month, one of her videos even caught the attention of United States President Donald Trump. He wrote on the website Twitter, "Amazing!"

Mjeje started working on her ball movement, or juggling, skills when she was growing up in Tanzania. For many years, she played for a local women's soccer team.

Mjeje hits the ball with her feet, head and upper body, but not her hands.

Mjeje is a 29-year-old single mother of two boys. For the past six years, she has been using her special juggling skills to help her support them.

She asks for $4 for a two-minute performance. She earns between $45 and $50 a day. She says the money goes toward sending her children to school and buying food for them to eat.

So far, Mjeje has traveled to Cameroon, Burundi, Gabon and Malawi to give her performances.

At a recent show in Malawai, she told VOA, "There is no magic in this ball. This is my own talent I started developing long ago."

In Malawi, her skill got the attention of the country's National Women's Football officials. They were interested in bringing her into their women's soccer development program. Mjeje turned down the offer.

Sugzo Ngwira is the head of the Women's Football Committee in Central Malawi. She said that if Mjeje were ready to use her skills with other players, her organization would explore ways of working with Mjeje.

Hadhara Charles Mjeje is traveling around Africa showcasing her soccer ball juggling skills as a way to feed her family. Mjeje with spectators on Feb. 22, 2019.
Hadhara Charles Mjeje is traveling around Africa showcasing her soccer ball juggling skills as a way to feed her family. Mjeje with spectators on Feb. 22, 2019.

Mjeje's skills have caught the interest of male soccer players, too. Samuel Zeka plays social football in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe. He says it is a rare talent for women to juggle the ball as well as she does.

"I would be very grateful if she would teach me such skills," Zeka added.

Mjeje said she wished the American president could have done more to help her than write a supportive message on Twitter. She said she wished Trump had offered to help feed her family. Along with her children, she also has her aging parents to care for.

But Trump's reaction on Twitter did lead to extra attention. Shortly after, she received requests for interviews from local and international news agencies, including the BBC and Reuters.

She returned to Tanzania in early March, after an agent traveled to Malawi to meet her. The agent wanted to share the possibility of signing an advertising contract that could earn her a lot of money in Spain.

Mjeje said she hopes the new contract marks the beginning of a better life.

I'm ­Pete Musto.

Lameck Masina reported this story for VOA. Pete Musto adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

We want to hear from you. What kinds of special skills do you have that you think might make you some money? Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

social median. forms of electronic communication, such as website, through which people create online communities to share information, ideas and personal messages

talentn. a special ability that allows someone to do something well

gratefuladj. feeling or showing thanks to someone for some helpful act

interview(s) – n. a meeting between a reporter and another person in order to get information for a news story

agentn. a person who does business for another person