Lesein Mutunkei, an 18-year-old from Kenya plants 11 trees for every goal he scores on the football field — one for each player on his team.
And no, it’s not a superstition or good luck charm — Mutunkei is trying to raise awareness for the daily loss of an estimated 50 football pitches worth of forest area in his country.
In 2018, Mutunkei started Trees4Goals to mobilize young athletes in his region to plant trees every time they score. According to CNN, now he wants FIFA to use its audience of billions to take his message global.
“Football is a universal game and climate change is a universal problem,” Mutunkei said. “[It] has the power to connect, engage, educate and inspire my generation to create a safer and greener future.” Deforestation refers to the clearing of forests and trees for agriculture, or to harvest resources like timber. It contributes to global warming and damages wildlife habitats. In 2018, Kenya’s forest cover stood at just 6%, according to the Kenya Forest Service.
His dream is that one day, football teams would compare their success by the size of the forests they’ve planted, not just the number of trophies on their shelves.
Mutunkai remembered that whenever his family wanted to commemorate special occasions, they planted trees.
That’s when he heard a story about a hummingbird trying to put out a forest fire while all the other animals fled in fear.
“However small you think the difference may be, it does make a change.”