This is blog 2 of a short series that has been written to give readers some of the context behind the reason that the Kicking Off charity has been started and why the town of Mpraeso and surrounding area in Ghana has been chosen for the first Kicking Off project. As the Kicking Off team builds up to the first ‘pilot’ tournament in March, we will publish regular blogs to add some personal insights into how and why each member has become involved in starting the charity.
Six years on from the Ghana 1.0 blog, my wholesome and productive teenage years had gone somewhat downhill! It was the 14th of March 2016 and I was unashamedly drunk in a nice hotel room in the lovely city of Ottawa, Canada!
Whilst this isn’t an unusual set of circumstances to find me in, (well the drunkenness, not the hotel in Ottawa – that bit is epic!) it was an unusual night. My three amazing travel companions had all gone to bed but I wasn’t done with the box of wine we had sitting on the side and the chair I was sat in was incredibly comfortable. I sat back in a reflective, thoughtful mood and considered my Canada experience so far and wondered at the set of choices that had taken me from Ghana 1.0 to that comfortable Canadian chair.
If you haven’t ever visited Canada, I’d highly recommend it. It’s an incredibly beautiful country filled with the friendliest people and amazing things to see and do. My trip had started with several days in the cosmopolitan city of Toronto with a day trip down to the impressive Niagara Falls and a posh dinner in the revolving CN tower restaurant (we all said we’d have a cheap salad, but the temptation of the most expensive but delicious steak I’ve ever eaten was too much!).
This was followed by a road trip east toward Ottawa (where I was sat pondering life). It went on to involve a road trip further east to visit Montreal where we saw the Canadians get destroyed on the Ice – ‘Go Habs Go’. Finally, we did a whistle stop tour of the quaint Quebec City before heading on to where my friends live, right out east in Fredericton, New Brunswick!
Caveat – whilst Canada is a country that I absolutely loved, Ice Hockey is a silly sport, they’d be far better off playing football!
Canada was the best experience of ‘luxury’ travelling I’d ever experienced and I was loving it, but my reflective mood took me back to previous trips and the voluntary work I’d taken part in across the world. I was bored of self-seeking when travelling, bored of not giving anything back.
This train of thought took me back to my Ghana trip 6 years earlier.
The idea of Kicking Footballs out the back of a moving lorry towards different townships and villages in Africa had long been in my mind. It was a silly idea but the thought of someone just travelling past a place and dishing out a little happiness to impoverished children completely anonymously struck me as both a little amusing and a great way to spend a few days.
That night in Ottawa I properly thought about how I could go from that basic, verging on daft idea and began thinking how I could improve it to make a real charity. A charity that would both give out both that basic feeling of joy to kids that love football, but that would also have a real impact on the quality of their lives as well. At the moment my thoughts went back to the tournament in Ghana 2010, I finally put all the pieces together and at that moment that Kicking Off was born.
I spent the rest of that night frantically registering and creating a host of online accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Web Hosting etc) with a name that my travel companions had jokingly thrown out earlier that day. When I woke up in the morning with a sore head and saw the full extent of what I had decided and done in the small hours of the morning, the adventure had truly begun.