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.