Mesut Ozil rewards Kenyan boy spotted wearing Arsenal jersey in viral tweet
Naserian is the epitome of contrasts. It is an informal settlement comprising of makeshift homes made out of corrugated sheets. It is nestled in the middle of plush bungalows, and their manicured gardens; the typical upper middle- class environment.
The road leading to the area is made of paving blocks but the actual path to Naserian that runs parallel to the high walls is a murram road, a desolate settlement that has no running water and lacks proper sanitation.
This is the path that nine-year-old Lawrence Masira uses daily when going to school and while herding his family’s cows. On December 3rd, 2018, the standard 5 pupil wearing a faded Arsenal shirt – his favorite English football team, was on his way home when he met Eric Njiru, a sports journalist and presenter at Homeboyz FM; that chance meeting would thrust the two into global limelight.
“I was coming from the garage, and then I met this young kid with cows on the road. They were blocking the road and I wanted to know what was going on. I then noticed he had an Arsenal shirt, and I was surprised…I looked at the back of the shirt and I saw he had written Özil at the back, and he told me he wanted to meet the football star. I found it fascinating and took the photo of his shirt,’ Njiru told Citizen Digital in an exclusive interview.
“I met Eric when we were going home with my brother, I told him I liked Arsenal and when he saw the name on my shirt, I said Özil was my favorite player. He gave me Kshs.30 and I bought a chapati, he went on his way and I went home,” the soft-spoken standard 5 student recounted in a moving yet inspiring tale.
Eric, impressed by what he had encountered posted a tweet, attached the photo of Lawrence and tagged the former German international and the English Premier League giants – Arsenal.
“I saw this kid today grazing in the streets of Nairobi – a city without really grass for cows. He told me he loves @MesutOzil1088 so much (You can see his shirt). Maybe one day this can reach Ozil and get a real @Arsenal shirt,” Njiru’s tweet read.
“I said maybe, maybe it might reach Mesut Ozil,” Njiru quipped.
The tweet went viral garnering a whopping 8300 retweets and close to 10,000 likes.
Three days later, the unthinkable happened; a direct message on Twitter from the Arsenal play-maker inquiring about the young Kenyan fan. Clearly, Njiru’s tweet had caught the football star’s attention.
“Hey Eric, its team Özil here. Mesut saw your tweet about the boy from Nairobi. This is so touching! Thanks for the hint! Mesut really would like to give him something back!” the message read.
The response took Eric by surprise. He had not taken the young kid’s contacts and was at pains as to how he would reach him. But once again Twitter came to the rescue, someone else reached out through a direct message with an important lead.
“Someone told me he knows where the boy lives, so I contacted him and we met at Uchumi Langata, then from there he brought me to Naserian, I met the mother and we spoke, I told them that Özil had seen the photo and he was happy that he was so passionate, and he would send something to him,” Njiru told Citizen Digital.
Due to logistical hitches, the arrival of the Arsenal merchandise was delayed for almost two months and finally landed on Kenyan soil at the end of February 2019. After the package from the Arsenal star had been cleared by customs, Eric picked it up and made the long-awaited visit on Saturday March 9, 2019.
News of Lawrence’s special guests had filtered to the larger part of Naserian, with his family, friends and neighbours milling around their modest home. Lawrence’s eyes were locked on the brown cardboard parcel that Njiru had in his left hand as he approached him. The fourth born in the family of six had a glint in his eye, when the parcel was unpacked to reveal its contents; there were five official Arsenal jerseys, three pairs of boots, and two Özil hats.
“I feel very nice, I only watch Ozil on TV and listen to him on the radio. I am truly grateful,” the ecstatic Lawrence told Citizen Digital outside their home.
“I am so happy, I didn’t have boots, I usually play with my home shoes, I now have jerseys,” a delighted Lawrence said as came to terms with the development
Lawrence coincidentally plays as a play-maker, his idol’s preferred role. He admitted that his friend Jacob Sane was the one who wrote Özil’s name on his Arsenal shirt.
“I am not the one who wrote it, it’s my friend Sane who wrote it,” he quipped.
Two days after Lawrence had received his gifts, the Arsenal star posted numerous photos to acknowledge his young Kenyan fan thousands of kilometres away.
“The picture of the young Kenyan boy with a self-made shirt on Twitter touched me so much. And Look at Lawrence now – it’s so heartwarming to see him and his brothers happy,” Özil tweeted sharing four photos of Lawrence and his brother in their new Arsenal jerseys.
Lawrence now hopes to meet the 2014 World Cup winner in the near future and thank him personally for the kind gesture.