This is the first 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...
Well, the first thing I’d like to say about Kicking Off’s recent trip to Ghana to launch our first ever project is that it was a massive, almost unbelievable, success. By harnessing the skills of both our local contacts at the SVG Africa Charity and the Kicking Off team, we were able to successfully bring together a wide community of people to give them an amazing, competitive day of football. More importantly, we gave the children access to vital medical checks, food, water and goodie bags filled with things for which they are absolutely desperate.
Beyond that, we achieved so much more which ties in with our longer-term goals in the area. To empower the people of the community with which we are working, we must first understand the way they think, and their priorities for the area. This is a difficult balance to maintain when working with an overseas community: to balance our standards, as UK citizens, with those of the people with whom we are working. This is no more apparent than when you order food in Ghana, where it is a common occurrence for it to take at least 2 hours to arrive. In the UK, that would be unthinkable; in Ghanaian culture, it is an acceptable amount of time. This features heavily in the work we are doing, where sometimes the difference in longer term priorities can be difficult to understand: for example, wondering why schools without access to clean water are asking for IT equipment.
It is the aim of Kicking Off to work out exactly what projects we should become involved in, which will leave a lasting legacy in the area, and be most helpful in giving communities and individuals the opportunity to fulfil their potential. There is still plenty of preliminary work to be done, but once we have the funds in place we can invest in some serious, locally-led, community infrastructure projects.
Surprisingly for me, the highlight of Kicking Off’s project launch week wasn’t seeing the culmination of months of hard work on tournament day. The defining moment for me was on the Wednesday evening when I went into Mpraeso town to watch the second leg of the Barcelona vs PSG Champions League tie. The game was being shown in a small open cinema-like courtyard, with about 200 locals (and 3 British guys!) all crammed in. As one of the most epic games in Champions League history unfolded in front of the disbelieving audience, the excitement level was palpable. At the point that the final kick of the game was a Barcelona goal, making the score an unprecedented 6-1 and putting them into the quarter finals, the whole town exploded in a way that is almost indescribable. People were crying, screaming, shouting, dancing, trying to grab the players on the big screen, and generally losing their minds. The party spread out onto the street and continued fervently for at least the next hour. Both the game and the atmosphere were an incredible thing to witness but, more importantly, it instilled in me a such a sense of self-belief that what we were doing could not be a better motivator, uniting and empowering the people of Mpraeso and the surrounding area through football.
The week was not without hundreds of lessons and interesting discoveries, which will be discussed in future Blogs; but, before tournament day even began, I knew that football was enough to make it work. Participants would gain access to practical and medical essentials they so desperately need, but their day would be inspired by a passionate love of football.