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Football Report for 2008

John Gregory with the sports teachers.Ko School's Football Project by John Gregory

I was intrigued after last years visit to Ko A and B schools, to find out how the Sports Teachers had progressed with coaching and developing football with the initial set up of the two age groups, U/10s and U/11’s. It was always my intention to use these two schools that face each other only 100 yards apart as a base for a Soccer school, to form and serve not only them but the area around.

The plan was to use this second visit as an opportunity to see the sports teachers coaching the existing groups, find out what progress had been made, and to expand the soccer school further with more age groups. I took with me over £1000 worth of kits and equipment supplied for me by a local sports supplier, MDH Sports and Leisure.  www.mdhsports.co.uk   I also checked the equipment out there Some of the football action during one of the games.which I took with me on my last visit; it was still in a very good condition.

I was pleased with the progress the teachers had made with the two age groups, having watched and spoken with them. One of the Under 10 teams had won a prestige game against a team from another town. I quickly got to work at forming more age groups, U/12s, U/13s and also two girls age groups U/14s and 15s. These older age groups would involve the two Secondary schools nearby which feed from Ko A and B.

A penalty shoot-out in the football tournamentHaving coached these children for 7 days in temperatures approaching 100 degrees it was tough going, but they made the situation easier for me by their concentration levels being of a very high standard. Teams at these age groups were formed and kits supplied to me were given out.

My last two days there were spent running two tournaments, each school supplying teams in age groups U/10, U/11, and two girls teams U/14 and 15 for the re-run Freed UK Cup which was contested last year. Both schools also supplied teams at U/12 and U/13 for the MDH Sports and Leisure Cup. The tournaments proved to be a big success with big crowds, well over 500 each attending both of the events. There was singing and dancing from the touch-lines and everybody was in good spirits.

Thr crowds that turned out for the football matches.

Ten teams have been set up, consisting of six age groups, so the soccer school is now well and truly formed, something that has never happened in this region before. Never has a qualified coach made a visit to this area. I do hope to return and take this project even further, and also to meet again the friendliest group of people one could ever meet.   Special thanks go to my company Sealed Air who again sponsored myself for the second time to make this trip.

Football Report 2007

John Gregory visits Nandom to coach the children in football

Time had flown by since February when I was asked to go to Ghana and join up with other members of the Northampton based charity group FREED (UK). The charity was originally founded by a small group of people who had grown up in Nandom, Northern Ghana and had gone on to a better life. They had not forgotten their hometown and wanted to do all they possibly could to help the people back there. The party travelling to Ghana consisted of 22 people of which were consultants, doctors, dentists, nurses, teachers, a specialist cabinetmaker and myself.

Waiting their turn on tournament day.

We took the night flight to the capital Accra. From here we would have a two day 600 mile journey along some treacherous dirt track roads to the most north western town in Ghana. In fact we would only be six miles from the northern border with Burkina Faso. We were to spend eight days in Nandom. My objective was to coach football to nine and ten-year-old boys from two schools which were only fifty yards apart. I would then set up teams for these age groups from each school, run a tournament on the last day and set up a format for an inter school league. It was also my intention to train up four teachers to carry on coaching football to the children after my return home.

After meeting with the four teachers who had volunteered to get involved with the football coaching, I explained my plans to them for the following week. I would put on coaching sessions for the children, but would also make sure that the teachers got involved in these and I would pass on as much knowledge as possible to them. I had acquired a certain amount of training equipment to take with me, 12 footballs with pumps and bags, collapsible poles, space markers, and also a kit bag. This equipment would be left with the teachers for their The homemade plastic ball that the children play with. use in the future. My employers ‘Sealed Air’ had kindly donated two full sets of football strips. Another local football club had also donated two old sets of football strips for their use.

The children were overwhelmed with the footballs, they had never used a proper football before. They make up their own version, by blowing up a small plastic bag, tying it, then adding a few more bags to give it a strong outer layer.

John the football trainer with the coaches.The coaching went very well throughout the week in temperatures approaching 100° F. I was amazed at how good the boys were, their excellent concentration levels made teaching them a real pleasure. I was also very pleased with the coaches as they were keen to learn and very enthusiastic. I had put together a 150 page training manual which included drills, games and various information that I would leave with the new coaches to work from. Over the course of the week I assessed the players and we chose the four teams from the two schools. I also coached and setKo B under 10's football team. up girls teams and I coached a local adult side, both of these being an added bonus for me.

The tournament that took place the day before my departure was a big success. We played six group games and a final, the winners playing for a trophy. A crowd of around 500 watched the final, which went into extra time and penalties. It was won by Ko A Under 10’s. The Ko A supporters were so excited, singing and dancing with joy when they were presented with the cup.

Ko A under 9's football team.This was the first time a qualified football coach had visited this part of Ghana and I have confidence in the sports teachers I helped to take this project on further. They have the training manual to work from and I’ve asked them to start up teams from other age groups, so as to create a centre of excellence for football. I will make sure they get supplies of further kits.

The one thing that stood out for me on this trip was the children - they were so happy, but had nothing. Their manners were impeccable and they were brought up to respect their teachers. They didn’t know what an ‘attitude’ was. Whilst in Nandom I managed to visit one of the children’s homes and meet their parents, I was told by one of the charity leaders, originally from Nandom, that it was a middle class home. To me it was shocking.

Lifting the cup after winning the football tournament.On our return back to Accra before we flew home, we had a meeting with the Minister of Human Resources for Ghana. Whilst in conversation with him, he told me something that was a real bonus. Since setting up the football project in the schools, there had been an influx of children coming from the farms to be educated so they could take part in the football coaching. Getting children to come from the farms to the schools had in the past been a difficult thing to achieve.

My thanks go to 'Sealed Air'. Without their generous funding, I would not have made this trip. To my new friends that I travelled with. But the biggest thanks go to the people of Nandom, I won’t ever forget you, for your warmth, your kindness and your friendliness, I have never felt so welcome!