This is the fourth in a series of Blogs that will go through, in detail, what our first ever project achieved, how we set it up, who we worked with, problems we faced, lessons we learned, personal memories and more.
The day had finally come: from drunken ideas in Canada to a dusty football pitch in the middle of Africa. Everything had been leading up to that 6am start, and heading down to the pitch to set up the stadium for tournament day.
The tournament was a coming together of so many pieces of organisation that relied on the local people, including: three minibuses for transport, three nurses, two referees, one match official, two tents, music system and DJ, water and food for 300 people, wood chippings for the pitch marking and a plethora of other things. The regular joke between us and SVG Africa is that the locals work on ‘Ghana time’, which is a unit of time that could be anything from 10 minutes late to three hours late depending on the way the wind is blowing. For the tournament to work, we had to work as closely to UK time as possible. Fortunately, everything somehow managed to come together perfectly, in time for the kids to start arriving and playing football.
With the local facilities we were relying on in place, it came down to my slick Kicking Off team to do the things for which they had been hand picked. As you may have seen in the Vlog from tournament day, we split our resources and set to work, putting into practice our rigidly timed and organized program.
When the children began to arrive in the minibuses, they were greeted by Sophie and Hattie, with Kicking Off wristbands. Each child was entitled to receive one of each thing that was written on their wristband; when they received that thing, they got a tick on the wristband. This system was invaluable in keeping a check on who was receiving what!
After their wristbands, each child was immediately issued with a goodie bag. (Thanks so much to Topps Tiles, Banbury, for the donation of the BAL drawstring bags). One of the mistakes we made, at this point, was not to get any footage for the Vlog that showed them smiling when given their goodie bags! In hindsight, the initial reaction to the bags was not what we had expected. Whether the children were focused on the football, unsure what they were being given, or it was just too early (not a good time to be awake on a Saturday morning) I’m not sure, but each child took their goodie bag away, and quickly looked through it, out of sight of everyone, before looking visibly ecstatic with everything they had been given. The number of children wearing their red bags throughout the day was testament to how well they went down; however, there is no doubt they looked ridiculously serious, when we first gave them out!
As all the teams gradually arrived, the music system was finally sound checked and cranked up to an incredible volume. You could literally hear it from about a mile away, in the middle of Mpraeso town! Once the music was on, the event really felt as if it had finally come together: this was the big celebration of sport I had so clearly pictured, whilst inebriated in Canada!
With music blaring, the organizing team at the ready, and the football teams in their kit and warming up, the time had truly come to kick off Kicking Off!
Please see part 2 of this blog coming next week…