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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Africans need to step up and support the growth of grassroots sports in their communities of origins



I recently read an article about a gentleman named Robbie Schulz from Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA who recently paid a visit to his girlfriend who works for an NGO in Sierra Leone, West Africa (http://www.annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-businessman-brings-soccer-balls-to-children-in-africa/ ). On planning his trip, Robbie decided to bring along a special gift for the children of Sierra Leone: ‘soccer balls’, a gift that the kids in Sierra Leone were thrilled to receive. You see the reason Robbie decided to bring the soccer balls was borne out of a need to do good, having been told by his girlfriend about the love of the game in the country and the lack of the basic equipment for the game, - a ball. Robbie decided to bring along the balls which he donated, and kids in Freetown, Sierra Leone, are presently enjoying this gift.
There is a lesson in Robbie’s gift for the kids in Sierra Leone and Africa at large. There are a number of Africans, both Male and Female, as well as Americans and other nationalities that are doing commendable development activities in Africa; Take for example, Kasia Muoto a resident of California, USA, who grew up in Nigeria and was selected to play for the Nigerian female soccer squad in international competitions but left to pursue her college education in the USA. Today she is the founder of a non-profit organization she runs called “We play to Win” ( www.WePlaytoWin.org ) whose primary function is to cater to young people on the continent, particularly young women, giving them social tools to succeed as human beings despite the difficult situations in which they exist. There is also Justin Forzano, the founder of the Cameroon Football Development Program who first went to Cameroon as part of a university program, taking with him some gifts of (soccer balls and sports equipment). He eventually transformed that passion into an organized activity when he created the Cameroon Football Development Program which works in partnership with a local team in Kumba, Cameroon, to promote health and development in that nation – ( www.cameroonfdp.com ).
Although not everyone will be able to form and operate a non-profit organization, or a business that is dedicated to the development of sports on the continent, everyone can help. Donating to such organizations whose mission resonate with you or even support what we do at African Sports Media Network by subscribing to our Magazine African Sports Monthly, is one way to start ( www.africansportsmonthly.com ).



As a leader in the African sports media space, the African Sports Media Network covers sports-related activities all over the continent, and one thing we do NOT see enough of amongst our own people (indigenous Africans, or those raised on the continent), is what some of these aforementioned leaders are doing. It is high time for Africans living in the Diaspora to step up and take up the challenge of supporting local sports clubs or development efforts such as the aforementioned ones, which impact the youth in the very neighborhoods we were once part of. One might ask how. Well, - sports equipment for one, go a long way to enhance the development of grassroots sports in African nations. Giving financially is another way to enable impactful programs and activities and probably the more effective way to channel our support to other already doing the work on the ground.
The gripe about the authorities being corrupt and not concerned about the state of their nation’s sports institution, though valid, should not stop anyone from helping at the grassroots or local level. To avoid misappropriations of your gifts, learn about trusted clubs and grassroots organizations, their leaders and their track records. Study their profiles (whether through social media or otherwise) and familiarize yourselves with their mission, vision and annual accomplishments. See which ones have been accountable, and then make a move to support them after you have done your research. Do what you can. I know for most in the Diaspora, giving up about $10 (or two Starbucks lattes!) a month should not and will not hurt your overall financial outlook.
I conclude here to say that when JFK proclaimed ‘ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’, he was talking about, the need for people to step up and help other in their communities in whatever little ways they are able. Donating a few soccer balls a year or several dollars a month to an accountable local club or non-profit initiative, will go a long way in fulfilling your civic duty to your land of origin and the future of our young people – both boys and girls.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ivory Coast and Zambia playing for a healing of their Nations



Zambia’s ascent to the highest level of Football in the African Continent at the 28th edition of the African Cup of Nations brings back to memory a fateful incident that happened to the Zambian National Football squad of 1993 that died off of the Coast of Gabon when the plane they were flying in crashed into the Gulf Of Guinea shortly after takeoff from Libreville Gabon enroute to a game in Dakar and unfortunately and ironically the itinerary for that flight was scheduled for them to make their next stop in Abidjan Ivory Coast before continuing their flight to Dakar.
The crash was a tragedy of tremendous proportion that is only now coming to the fore as every media outlet covering the AFCON 2012 are printing stories on the incident or talking about it on radio and television. The Zambian people experienced a great loss that was a loss for the rest of Africa as well as the world. Tragedies where an entire team die are rare and devastating. Interestingly enough the President of the Zambian Football Association Kalusha Bwalya was the only surviving member of that team who was not on that flight from Zambia but was supposed to join the team from the Netherlands.
Today on the eve before the Finals of the African Cup of Nations in Gabon everything about that tragedy has come full circle Zambia will play in Libreville Gabon the place of the tragedy and they are being led by the only surviving member of that tragedy in Kalusha Bwalya who as I mentioned is the President of the Zambia FA today and they will be playing the team from the Country that was supposed to be their next destination. Whatever kind of metaphor this is I hope it brings some closure to Kalusha Bwalya, the Families of the Players (Wives and Children) who survived their deaths, the Zambian players on the current national squad and the people of Zambia.

Ironically as I mentioned above Zambia will be playing the Ivory Coast, the next destination on the itinerary of that team of 93 and the Ivory Coast are as well a team that are playing for the healing of their nation, which went through a brutal civil war that raged between 2002 and 2004. The loss of lives was tremendous and the war left a legacy of a divided nation that still prevails today. The national team has been instrumental in fostering détente especially in 2006 when upon qualifying for the FIFA World Cup they convinced the then President, Laurent Gbagbo to restart peace talks that had stalled and in 2007 the team played a match in the then rebel capital of Bouaké a moment that brought fighting factions together in celebration of their national pastime.
Recently in 2011 Captain of the Elephants Didier Drogba was appointed to be on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission an appointment he readily accepted. One of the undisputed facts about Didier Drogba is that he is such a patriot and its hurts him so much to see his nation go through what it went through with the war that when he was asked to serve on the commission he did not even ask any questions or doubt whether he wanted to be on the commission or not he readily gave his word and now with an opportunity to further unite the people of the Ivory Coast with winning the AFCON 2012 Trophy and help the nation heal the Elephants will do whatever it takes to bring home the trophy when they take on the Chipopolo boys of Zambia.
Both Nations are deserving of a healing and we hope that whoever loses finds it within themselves that getting to the finals alone is consolation enough to help with the healing process that both these nations need.

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