Josh Kennedy - Soccer in Ghana
It all started out as just an idea between my friend and me. At first, it was more of a fantasy but as we started to plan, it became more and more real. At first, we knew we wanted to travel abroad but weren’t too sure where. We spent months researching destinations and activities, finally settling on travelling to Ghana for two weeks to coach football with Projects Abroad. I am a passionate footballer who has been playing junior football since the age of 5 and the volunteering opportunity offered really appealed to me. We spoke with a number of staff members before finally deciding on where to go. They were extremely helpful and very knowledgeable when it came to the destinations. This was one of the main factors that helped me to choose Projects Abroad.
Once we had chosen where we were going and what we were doing we decided that we were going to fundraise for the trip. I felt like fundraising for the trip made it so much more valuable for us. The fundraising was hard and took a lot of time but at the end of the day, it was all worth it. As part of our fundraising, we played a charity football match, ran a 10 km race, helped at fun days and so much more.
Arriving in Ghana
Finally, the day had come to leave for Ghana. After months of planning, we were ready to go. The flight was seven hours from Heathrow to Accra. Once we got through Accra airport we were met by a very friendly Projects Abroad staff member who greeted us and made sure we were okay. He then showed us to a waiting minibus where we met our project manager and our supervisors. They were very welcoming and keen to help us with our bags. We also met some other volunteers who had arrived on different flights in the minibus. We chatted and got to know each other as we made our way to the accommodation. When we arrived at the accommodation it was very late, so we were quickly shown to our rooms and went straight to sleep!
We arrived on a Saturday evening so our first full day in Ghana was the Sunday. We were welcomed by our host mother and given a tour of the accommodation. Everyone there was very welcoming and there was even an outdoor gym in which we were given free access too. We were then shown around the local area which gives you a good glimpse of what life is like in Ghana. I found this exceptionally interesting as the culture and living conditions are so different to living in England. Later in the day, we went to visit some local tourist attractions such as Independence Square before heading to the Ghana Sports Stadium to watch a local Ghanaian division football match. This was very exciting, especially as the crowd was very animated when it came to the match!
My Football Project
The following day we met our coach for the first time who was going to be helping us out for the duration of the project. He explained to us the key structure of the two weeks and was happy to answer every question we had. A very important part of the plan was the involvement of all the volunteers. The coach made sure that all our ideas were included so we could make the two weeks the best possible for the children.
When we first met the children, it was very interesting! They were so excited to meet us and everyone was eager for the coaching to begin. First of all, we had to draft our teams. On the first day, there were around 150 children ready and waiting to play football. It was a challenge to organise all of the children but we did manage to split the children into 10 teams. Each team was headed by two volunteers who trained with them for two weeks before concluding the project with a two-day tournament.
We were given our team and started training with them straight away. By the end of the week, we had around 18 players in our team; ranging from seven to 13 years old. This made coaching quite a challenge. Over the course of the project, I learned a lot of different coaching tips which helped when running my training sessions. The coaches were also always on hand if you ever needed help. The children were all so enthusiastic and just love playing football, they were so keen to learn.
After two weeks of hard work, we entered two teams into the under 10 and under 13 tournaments. Unfortunately, in the under 10 tournament we got knocked out in the first round after a lucky goal from the opposition but in the under 13 tournament we bounced back and made it all the way to the final. Unfortunately, we were beaten in the final but it was a special day.
We trained with the children in the late afternoon during the week so in the mornings we would travel to Medina to train and observe a local men’s team. The men were all very friendly and welcomed you to train with them. I really enjoy playing football so I was up for getting stuck in with the team. We would do a number of different training drills and then play a number of small sided games. If you are not a big football player then you can observe the training sessions and use the drills in your own sessions. Later in the trip, we formed our own volunteer team and played against two local teams. We beat the first team with a resounding win but later lost to the second team. It is very hard work playing football in the Ghanaian heat. Luckily we got the chance to cool off in the leisure centres swimming pool.
At the end of the first week, we travelled from our home in Accra to meet up with all the other volunteers in South Ghana. We travelled up to Cape Coast which is about a four-hour bus journey. In Cape Coast, we visited a castle where we learned about the history of Cape Coast. We also had the opportunity of visiting the fishing market and we started a football match with the local children on the beach. Whilst in Cape Coast, all of the volunteers went to the Kakum National Park where we got the opportunity to walk through the trees on a canopy walkway. On the way back to Accra we also stopped off to see a lake infested with crocodiles.
Overall, visiting Ghana was an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity, experiencing an entirely different culture and way of life. It is a rare opportunity to visit a country such as Ghana and the opportunity must be grasped with both hands. You must make some adjustments when arriving in Ghana and this may take a little time. I would recommend going with an open mind and be ready for anything unexpected that is sprung on you. If you are travelling alone it is easy to make friends as everyone shares similar interests and are often in the same position as you. The staff you work with are all extremely welcoming and they make sure that your time in Ghana is enjoyable and well spent.
If you have a passion for football and want to do something extremely worthwhile I would recommend this project 100%.