Our Tour Through Africa Reaches Tanzania

Ryan Jones, Rugby Programme Coordinator, gives us a quick run down of what we have been up to in Tanzania:

“Firstly, before I write anything else I have to get it out of my system, Tanzania is massive!! It’s a massive country, with massive mountains, scenery, culture and will always have a ‘massive’ long-lasting place in my heart.

I have seen and experienced so much within our time in Tanzania that it’s very difficult to put into words! The expedition team crossed into Tanzania with long-term supporter and director of Lloyd Morgan Productions, Lloyd Morgan.

The first beautiful scene to meet us was Lake Manyara and its brilliant baboons! As always, I’m completely honoured to be a team member, that feeling of privilege has only been enhanced by my time in Tanzania.

Unique to Tanzania, our work spread into three separate locations instead of one per country. First up was Arusha: We were fortunate enough to be accommodated at the lovely Braeburn School and I placed myself alongside JP and Ben for our week’s worth of uniting, empowering and inspiring through rugby at Arusha Primary.

The weather was quite an issue, but utilising our trademark adaptability and sponteneouty, we successfully put together a fantastic rugby week which also included meeting ‘Jonny Mike’ – the 80-year old giant tortoise and Arusha Primary mascot – the stunning TGT rugby pitch as well as Jon, Ben and myself having the pleasure of spending an evening coaching young Arushans full contact rugby!

The second Tanzanian location to be visited was the town of Moshi, where we had the pleasure of staying at the Stella Maris hotel (a non-profit organisation that funds an AIDS victims orphanage) – a mostly clear view of Mount Kilimanjaro each day and the only thing that could possibly top those two amazing things: working with Moshi street children from the wonderful Mkombozi agency! This is a charity I fully intend to support on my return to the UK.

I’m a pretty down-to-earth guy but for three days I think I was in the most bizarre form of paradise! To be a volunteer in Africa is to follow in the footsteps of many, many remarkable people. However, to experience elation that is unique to you and the homeless/deprived children you are selflessly helping, in a way that’s different to everybody else, is a phenomenal feeling. A feeling that I will always treasure, and I’m eternally grateful to United Through Sport for this huge opportunity for self discovery and one of the best weeks of my life!

We had a well earned week-off from project work after visiting the museums and crocodile farms of the former slave port, Bagamoyo. Most of the team headed to Zanzibar to rest a bit after 10 weeks on the road!

The team’s last stop in Tanzania is Dar es Salaam where we first stayed at the beach side campsite Mikadi, travelling to Dar by Tuk-Tuk and ferry each day. Right now, Ben and I are so fortunate to be staying in our new ‘home’ with ex-Tanzanian rugby international, JT, and his lovely wife Lynn. (Thank you so much for your hospitality, please look me up on your next UK visit!)

Mike, Jon and I are working with Mapambano Primary School, such an organised institution, heroically led by Head Teacher Idda Uisso!

If you thought that it might take us a while to get back into the swing you could not be more wrong! With Idda’s enthusiasm, the children’s unlimited appreciation, G4S’ superb input and support in coaching refreshments and resources, a daily rendition of the Tanzanian National Anthem – closely followed by the song “welcome teachers, Mr Richard we love you” – Mapambano reached a United Through Sport first, by achieving a Level 4 Assessment Award Certificate!

Dar es Salaam has the potential to be a new personal best for us! Thank you as always for your support and well wishes!

See you all in Malawi.”

Check out a video of our work in Tanzania.

Tennis Coach Prepares Ghanaian Youth Player for International Tournament

United Through Sport Ghana Volunteer, Michael Rossi, of London UK, has been coaching at the National Tennis Centre in Accra for the past 6 weeks to assist the development of grassroots tennis in Ghana. During his time in Accra, Michael worked one-on-one with Toshi. Toshi is amongst the most promising young players in Africa. The fifteen year old hails from mixed Ghanaian and Nigerian heritage and has already competed in tournaments around Africa. Michael’s one-on-one coaching sessions will hopefully prepare him for victory in a tournament he is due to enter in Nigeria commencing later this week. The tournament will include the brightest prospects from West Africa to determine the highest ranked players in the region.

Michael has been working closely with International Tennis Federation trained coach and United Through Sport’s Tennis placement coordinator, Yaya. Yaya volunteers his time without pay to aid the development of Tennis in Ghana, helping children of all ages excel in the sport. He is helped by the wonderful facilities at the National Tennis Centre in Accra. The 4 court complex, which is situated in the shadow of the 40,000 capacity Accra Sports Stadium and opposite the landmarks of Independence Square, are vital to the continued development of the sport. Yaya stakes the ambitious claim to have a Ghanaian breaking into the Top 10 World Rankings.

Yaya was speaking courtside at the Ghana Tennis Championships that were taking place in Accra. Many of the players qualifying for the latter rounds are still young and yet to reach their full potential. Key to the development of Tennis in Ghana is the small coastal town of Winneba in Ghana’s Central region, which is home to a State funded Tennis Academy and has 8 courts and hosts many National training camps whilst acting as a fully residential Academy for the brightest prospects.

Michael and Yaya also coach a large group of dedicated young beginners, who are lucky enough to use the same facilities as Ghana’s elite players. These children from underprivileged backgrounds rely on donations to provide the resources they couldn’t participate without; shoes, balls and rackets are expensive even by Western standards. In Ghana, contributions from United Through Sport and our beneficiaries are giving kids the chance to play, improve and hopefully compete internationally like Toshi and maybe one day become household names.

Ghana U13’s Triumph in Football Gala

A predictably scorching Easter Saturday in Teshie, Greater Accra witnessed the first in a series of United Through Sport organised Football Tournaments. Six teams would battle it out on the dusty Presby Park pitch to see who would be crowned inaugural Champions of the U13 Tournament.

Hosting the tournament, United Through Sport Ghana entered two teams of equal strength. Sporting United Through Sport, wearing blue were placed in Group A and Dinamo Football Beyond Frontiers (FBF) wearing all green in Group B. A round robin group format would see the teams with the best qualifying record meet in the final, to be played in the evening.

In a nervy opening performance, Sporting United Through Sport were lucky to grab an important 1-0 over the much fancied Apisco FC of nearby suburb Nungua. The victory came courtesy of a fine strike into the bottom corner from Sporting United Through Sport’s left winger Prosper.

It would be some time before the Dinamo FBF team took to the pitch, but with the other two games ending in draws both of our teams were well placed for qualification. Dinamo FBF took to the field and displayed the kind of inventive possession football that was reminiscent of Ghana’s Black Stars at the previous two World Cups. Centre midfielder Bernard Osei pulled the strings for the home side and sealed a comfortable 2-0 victory over [Billa’s] Future Leaders FC with a finely struck late penalty.

The other fixtures continued to impress with an array of spectacular goals being scored. Highlights included a 40 yard free kick flying into the top corner; a first time volley from outside of the area blazing into the back of the net and a impudent lob from an impossible angle to create a show reel that could easily feature several contenders for Match of the Day’s Goal of the Month Competition.

Both Sporting United Through Sport and Dinamo FBF ended the preliminary stage topping their groups, neither conceding a goal on their path to the final. Despite the familiarity of the sides, the final did not appear to be a friendly. Before Sporting United Through Sport took the lead from a well-crafted move and neat finish, the referee had yellow carded no less than 3 players for some overzealous tackling! Despite playing the more impressive football in the earlier stages of the tournament, Dinamo FBF failed to respond to going a goal down and eventually Sporting United Through Sport romped to a 3-0 victory.

The victory saw the teams swap shirts before typically raucous Ghanaian celebrations. UTS’ star player ‘Pato’ lifted the trophy. Pato’s midfield partner, Dennis Sowah took the Tournament ‘MVP’ Award and Goalkeeper Francis won the Best Goalkeeper Award after failing to concede a single goal all day.

The games were played in a superb spirit and we thank all of the teams and players for their efforts. The day ended with a customary Azonto competition. Even after a day of fighting it out in the unforgiving sun, players from all teams found the energy to close the tournament with superb displays of West African dancing, the only thing more natural to them than football!

The team at United Through Sport Ghana hopes their U15 and U17 teams can be as triumphant in their forthcoming tournaments as they prepare for the new season.