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Lifestyle // Island Matters
Mufi Hannemann

Prayers And Pads Pave The Way

Kalihi Disciples praying together before a gam. Photo courtesy of Elijah Uli

Kalihi Disciples praying together before a gam. Photo courtesy of Elijah Uli

Athletic Disciples in Kalihi are performing miracles play by play. They recently swept three championship titles at the 2014 Pacific Big Boyz (PBB) Football League. It’s safe to say that the intermediate, junior varsity and varsity divisions of Kalihi Disciples are still walking on water after each raked in landslide victories at the April 19 showdown. This is the first time all three won state championships together.

NFL players started sending their social media shout outs, including Doug Baldwin (Seattle Seahawks), Jerome Williams (Houston Astros) and even Jesse Sapolu, a product of Kalihi. The four-time San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl champion praised the football teams’ triple crowns.

“Everybody kept telling me growing up that being from Kalihi, you’ll never make it. I used that to my advantage because I had an edge to prove people wrong,” he said. “So go out there. Be great in school. Use the game of football to get an education. If you make it to the NFL, great. If not, get your degree and come back and give back to our city, a city we are very proud of,” Sapolu said on YouTube.

The Kalihi Disciples’ three divisions’ final scores: intermediate beat the Mililani Acadians, 34-24; the jayvee team squeaked by the Palolo Nesians, 30-28, and the varsity made it past the West Side Warriors, 18-16.

Kalihi Disciples is a non profit 501 (c) (3), community-based group associated with the Mauga Olive Assembly of God, which is led by Pastor Muao Ava and First Lady Falavai Ava in Mapunapuna.

“It is an outreach ministry for our church,” says Tiana Faitau, team president. “The organization’s mission is twofold – to produce great football players who will embrace a healthy lifestyle and to teach the athletes to embrace the gospel of Jesus Chris.”

The Kalihi athletic team is comprised of kids from low-income neighborhoods, particularly Kalihi Valley Homes, Kuhio Park Terrace, Kamehameha Homes, Kam IV Road and Kaahumanu Homes. But any dedicated athlete who is a good student can play. Players are subject to grade checks, and those who excel in the classroom are recognized at the end of the season.

“We also have kids from Waipahu and Ewa Beach, whose parents make the trek into town to have their boys be a part of our organization because of the healthy balance we stress between academics and athletics,” says Faitau.

What makes the Disciples unique is the bond that the boys prayerfully share among themselves. They have to block a little harder and run a little farther in order to raise money. Fundraisers include street net fishing, garage sales, bake sales, car washes and on May 10 they held a big benefit concert to pay for sports equipment, travel expenses and uniforms for next season. Donations still are being collected; contact Tiana Faitau at 277-4083.)

Their families live from paycheck to paycheck, so the greatest challenge the group faces is collecting its $100 registration fees. “Most times, the season ends and fees are never paid. The committee members are mindful of these families who are not able to pay because of hardship. We empathize with the struggles that they go through on a daily basis and we don’t have the heart to tell their boys they can’t play,” says Elijah Uli, assistant coach for the intermediate division. When it comes to playing ball, all financial burdens are put on the sidelines. Coaches, parents and the community are united, and cheer with their lungs and souls as the young footballers play their hearts out in every game. Perhaps, someday, like Sapolu, they too can achieve NFL greatness or become major contributors in our state or nation. PBB League gives the Disciples and other football teams throughout Hawaii a chance to dream and be discovered.

My grand-nephew Allyze-Ray “RayRay” Feagai-Uli, a 5-foot-5, 256-pound, husky, growing 11-year-old, had a tough time making weight limits for Pop Warner, but Kalihi Disciples is giving him a chance to fulfill his football dream. RayRay, or Mountain as he is affectionately known to his family, as tells me, “It makes me feel happy because I get to play with my friends and the coaches make us feel like we are part of one big family.”

But perhaps the biggest benefit to RayRay and his teammates is that the Kalihi Disciples coaches and staff are preparing the youths for the game of life – providing them with character-building and the necessary tools needed to uplift and inspire others through the world of football.

mufi@mufihannemann.com

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