Round of 16 Clash with Ghana

After cruising through the group stages of the Street Football World Cup with three wins, United Through Sport South Africa were given an extremely tough round of 16 clash against Africa Continental Champions Ghana.

Going into the clash, Ghana were regarded as one of the favourites to win the tournament, with a much older and stronger group of players and only one female in their line-up. Ghana also boasted two full time professional players in their ranks. So this was always going to be a David V’s Goliath situation.

The United Through Sport team fought bravely throughout the game and late in the second half looked like possibly causing an upset after coming back from 4-1 down to make the score 4-3 and give Ghana a tense last few minutes.

Unfortunately the upset was not to be and the game finished 5-3 in favour of the older more experienced Ghana side.

Our South Africa side showed their integrity throughout and came away with maximum value points for fair play, respect and cooperation, with Ghana only picking up one point out of three.

We now fall out of the main competition but go into a ‘Fair play’ group to continue to fight for further honours.

“Our team fought really hard and I’m so proud of the fact that they maintained their values and integrity throughout. We are now one of only 5 remaining teams to have picked up maximum value points in all of our games. In context it’s important to remember that we are one of the youngest teams here, with our youngest player being only 14 compared to most teams playing with 20 and 21 year olds. We are also one of the few teams participating with four boys and four girls to give equal gender balance. Lets also remember we have also gone further in the competition than any senior Bafana Bafana team at a World Cup”. Nick Mould – United Through Sport South Africa Coach

Opening Wins in Brazil

United Through Sport South Africa take maximum points on opening day in Brazil

The United Through Sport team representing South Africa at the Street Football World Cup got off to a dream start on the opening day of the tournament with two wins from two games.

The Street Football World Cup is taking place over the next 7 days with teams from 24 countries around the world competing in the centre of Sao Paulo, Brazil for the coveted title of World Street Football Champions.

United Through Sport is the representative team for South Africa and took 8 young people from our Senior School of Excellence Programme (4 boys and 4 girls) to take part in the tournament. The tournament is not just about Football but places a big emphasis on the cultural exchange; promoting fair-play, respect and cooperation. At the end of each game, teams are awarded a potential extra three points depending on how well the opposition and mediators feel they complied with the aspects promoted.

The team made an unbelievable start beating Costa Rica 5-1 in their first encounter as well as picking up all three extra points for the positive manner in which they played. They then went on to top their first result by beating USA 7-0 in the second game of the day; once again taking maximum points for fair-play, respect and solidarity, to end the day, top of their group.

It was a great first day for the United Through Sport team who were the talk of the day and enjoyed the media attention they received from CNN and Brasil Sport TV.

“We really feel like celebrities here, the children are coming up and asking for photos and autographs and the media cameras are following us around and continuously asking for interviews. It’s such an amazing feeling and to be in Brazil while the World Cup is taking place just makes it even better.” Lorenda Fezile: United Through Sport South Africa team member.

Meet Lindiwe – Our Netball Scholar

Supported through our School of Excellence Programme in South Africa, Lindiwe comes from a typically tough background having grown up in the township of Kwazakhele in Port Elizabeth without ever knowing her father. Her mother has never worked formally and spent most of Lindiwe’s life away in her original home town of Mount Ayliff in the Eastern Cape. As a result Lindiwe has been mostly brought up by her older sister, along with her two other siblings and nephew. Her older sister runs a ‘Shebeen’ (township drinking bar) in the informal settlement of Gqebera and Lindiwe sleeps in the store room with her cousin, surrounded by beer crates.

Despite her tough circumstances, or perhaps as a result of them, Lindiwe stood out in the United Through Sport Programme as a talented Netball player with an attitude of true grit and determination to succeed. As a result, United Through Sport secured a scholarship for her part way through grade 9 to Pearson High School in 2011. In her first term, the gulf in education looked like it would be too much – she failed every subject scoring only 11% in maths and 13% in English. Yet, Lindiwe had been given this opportunity for a reason and her determination came to the fore. She worked for 5 hours every night to complete her homework and do extra catch up classes , every Friday she would take an English book from the library and read it over the weekend and return it on Monday. Gradually her results improved due to her hardwork and perseverance. Lindiwe is now in grade 12 at Pearson, she is an active member of the debating society and represents the school in Netball. Her ambition is to become a Lawyer and she has applied to four of the top Universities in South Africa. She is on track to be amongst our first group of children to go to University each of whom will be the first in their families to do so.

Lindiwe is not a stand out child of our programme, but rather a typical example of the children we work with who come from such difficult circumstances yet have so much potential to completely change their own lives and the lives of their families for good.

If you would like to support others like Lindiwe then click on the Sponsor a Child link below.

Our Ghana Academy defeats Right to Dream

The United Through Sport Ghana Academy football team have come a long way in their short time together. This Saturday they faced their toughtest test to date. St Thomas Aquinas Senior High School in Central Accra played host to the United Through Sport Ghana Academy versus Right to Dream Academy, considered by many to be the finest Academy of Football in Africa, with both the U17s and U15s matching up against each other.

The first game of the day featured the U17 age group. A cagey start from the United Through Sport team saw a few nervous misplaced passes whilst neither team looked too desperate to take risks by committing men forward. The relentless strong African sun did not slow the pace of the game. Incisive pass and move football down the Right to Dream left flank worked space in the centre only for United Through Sport left back William to make a last gasp saving block to keep the scores level. Most of the action occurred down this side of the pitch, with right back and winger James and Stephen [respectively] combining effectively to test the Right to Dream goalkeeper half an hour into the tight contest. Minutes later United Through Sport full back James Kumah again went on the overlap. After cutting inside onto his left foot his pile-driving effort cannoned off of the bar to the relief of the helpless goalkeeper. The United Through Sport team were growing into the game, their strong midfield double pivot allowed the wingers and forwards to roam and cause problems for the opposition defence. Opportunities were narrowly missed and the game remained goalless.

Two Right to Dream midfielders were booked in close succession for cynical fouls that disrupted United Through Sport breaks. The United Through Sport right was exposed in a move that saw the Right to Dream Academy take the lead. Some slick one touch pass and move football created the space for an inviting cross that was met with a firm half volley from the Right to Dream striker. Somewhat unfairly, the UTS team found themselves behind on the stroke of halftime. This served as a poignant reminder of the quality and ruthlessly that their opponents possessed.

The United Through Sport Academy did not let their heads drop, knowing they had played the majority of the first half in the Right to Dream half and knowing they had more than earned the right to play their esteemed rivals. One half time change and rousing team talk immediately had the desired effect, substitute right winger Ibrahim controlled a fantastic deep cross and drilled a stinging shot across the goal into the bottom corner of the goal to level up the score.

The momentum was with the United Through Sport team now. Successive efforts at the Right to Dream goal from free kicks served as further warning that this game was not over. The Right to Dream defence had enjoyed a lot of possession along their backline with only the United Through Sport forwards, Ernest and Shaban, tasked with closing down. Their toil paid dividends when an interception followed by a lightning paced give and go passing move put striker Ernest Gyan one on one with the RtD goalkeeper. His cool finish sent the team, and large spectacting contingent, into raptures. Despite heavy late pressure and an injury to the United Through Sport goalkeeper, the United Through Sport Academy team held on to give them a huge and well deserved, morale boosting victory.

The U15 game was also a tense affair. Both teams struggled to carve out any notable chances and both goalkeepers were alert to the long range efforts that each defence restricted each other to. The most notable moment came late in the second half when a well worked move involving winger Richard Owusu and Ibrahim Sulley (appearing in both games) led to a penalty award for United Through Sport. Captain and Man of the Match, Daniel Mensah sent the keeper the wrong way but unfortunately sent his spot kick just wide of the post. Retribution came for the United Through Sport Captain as his excellent reading of the game allowed him to make an excellent goal line clearance and preserve the goalless scoreline, which was how the game finished.

The effort of both United Through Sport teams were fantastic on the day and made a big impression on the visiting side and their entourage. Results such as this one serve to remind the players that hard work can lead to attainable success and that nothing is impossible. In recent Summer tournaments the Right to Dream youth teams have gained creditable results against such worthy academies as; AC Milan, Boca Juniors and Manchester United. With many of the Right to Dream players expected to one day make the professional grade, these results can inspire our players to continue working hard towards this ultimate goal, shared by all at United Through Sport Ghana.

Ghana Team enjoy Independence Day Celebrations

To the average person it is probably any other day, but March 6th is probably the most important day in any Ghanaian’s year. Despite this wonderful country being so deeply religious, there is something else which Ghana values above the rest, her independence and young heritage as a Republic.

March 6th 1957 marked the day that this nation’s people, led by National hero Dr Kwarme Nkrumah, won its’ freedom by the British Empire. Before this date, Ghana had been known as the Gold Coast and was most notable for her brutal history involving centuries of exploitation from the land and people, through taking of gold and mineral reserves and also the taking of the people. The greatest crime against humanity in history emanated from Ghana’s beautiful coast. European forts were utilised for the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the horrors of the Middle Passage were not much worse than the conditions people from West Africa were kept in at Castles such as Cape Coast and Elmina in Ghana’s Central Region.

Volunteers came to spectate, whilst Ghanaians came not only to celebrate, but to remember the struggles their forefathers went through for their right to freedom. The national slogan of ‘Freedom and Justice’ stands proudly above the Black Star Arch in Accra’s Independence Square, opposite to where yesterday’s celebrations commenced.

For nearly everybody in the United Through Sport Ghana entourage this was their first chance to experience Ghana’s Independence Day in the capital. Our residential Academy players come from all over Ghana. We have representative players from the far North much closer to Burkina Faso than Accra. Several players emanate from the Eastern and Volta regions touching Togo,whilst large contingent have arrived from Ghana’s second city, Kumasi and the surrounding ‘Ashanti’ region, an area deeply affected by Ghana’s centuries of toils and tribulations with Colonialism.

An ominous morning greeted the crowd. Grey skies threatened and nearly succeeded in turning a proud day to one of farce. The UTS representatives were amongst the capacity crowd that witnessed the other side of Ghana’s hot tropical weather, the deluges of rain that descend in an instant. The relentless rain and wind tried its best to mar the celebrations of this special day.

The experience Ghana imposes on her visitors is something that leaves its mark. The strength and honour shown by the schoolchildren, armed forces and emergency service representatives that marched on behalf of their people in Black Star Square was a true sign of patriotism. These marchers, [upon receiving a standing ovation on their exit from the square] responded in the most Ghanaian fashion one could imagine. In no way deterred by hours of withstanding ferocious gales and rains, they happily danced for the thousands that had packed into the stands of the square. Together the servicemen in an outrageous display of patriotism and comradery absorbed the force of the storm and used the energy to entertain their wet and admiring onlookers.

The United Through Sport Ghana players, staff and volunteers did not witness a typical Independence Day comprised of proud speeches and order [the public address could hardly be heard over the winds]. The day epitomised the other facet of Ghana that its’ visitors come to love, the ability that all Ghanaians have to improvise something that seems ruined into something special and memorable in its own way. Whether this is small children using a ball made of trash and string to play football on wasteland or the serviceman standing tall and dancing together to salvage and savour a National Day of memorial and gratitude. The citizens of this young country really embody everything that people come to love and admire in Ghana.

Ghana Academy vs MTN Reality Starlets

United Through Sport’s U15 Academy side accepted the invitation to play against a very different Academy team this week. Located on the fringes of Accra’s Central Business District, our players took to the ‘Yellow Arena’ to play the MTN Soccer Academy team. MTN is the biggest mobile phone provider in Africa.

In its’ seventh season, the MTN Soccer Academy is a Big Brother style reality show where player’s performances earn public votes, and staying in the house can win you a trial with Chelsea FC. The show has discovered many talented players that have gone on to play in major European leagues and also domestically, for Glo Ghana Premier League teams such as Asante Kotoko and Hearts of Oak.

The match was a fiercely competitive six aside contest. Although small sided games are a feature of most footballers training at any level, the United Through Sport boys did not have much time to adapt to the frenetic pace of the game and new format. The ‘playing for your life’ motive certainly seemed evident in the MTN players. Many of the United Through Sport Academy players have only played more a handful of matches on real grass and the wear on many of their boots gave their opponents a noticeable advantage.

The MTN team started strongly, playing with panache and confidence whilst our team struggled to hold onto the ball. As our players adapted to the conditions, and seemingly took control of the game, they were soon to discover why the MTN boys are so highly rated.

In the space of two minutes, two long distance thunderstrikes crashed into the top corners of the United Through Sport goal (Ahhhh!), leaving the goalkeeper absolutely no chance with either effort. Our Academy kept their heads up and continued to play their way back into the game, well crafted moves leading to some great chances that were denied by a pair of fine saves and the woodwork respectively.

Continuing to build up the pressure, our boys in red were caught by a cruel deflection to set up a counter attack to make it 3-0 to the MTN Academy. Not letting this get them down, Ibrahim Sulley, charged with leading the line for the United Through Sport Academy team, hit a quickfire brace to narrow the deficit with some fine finishing.

Unfortunately, the team could not convert their chances. In between having a stonewall penalty appeal denied they conceded two more soft goals against the run of play. A half time scoreline of 5-2 was a cruel reflection of a half that could easily have gone either way.

Encouraging and calming words from the United Through Sport coaches seemed to have worked, with Captain Joseph Amoah leading the team straight out of the blocks in the second period. Despite strong pressure from the visiting team, chances were not converted and lessons were not learned. Two near identical incisive counter attacks from the MTN team put the score almost out of reach at 7-2.

The match had seemingly settled into a frustrating pattern whereby the United Through Sport team could not finish their chances and were clinically punished for their frailties and inexperience. Ibrahim Sulley, the saviour of the first half and the brightest attacking spark on display, added his third and then fourth of the game to bring the away team back into contention. A further fifth goal hammered in from Akwasi Anockey visibly shook their opponents as the scoreline became 7-5. To their credit, the MTN side remained resolute and their stubborn defensive efforts paid off as they kept it tight and then capitalised on a late ‘gung-ho’ approach, adding two more final goals.
The United Through Sport Ghana Academy team has come a long way in a very short space of time. The players can be proud that they matched older and more experienced opponents in an unfamilar playing environment. Many of the opposing players may forge careers from this experience and it is the goal of United Through Sport thar our Academy players can too.

Academy Players compete for National Tennis Ranking

Wednesday 5th February saw the National Tennis Centre, Accra, host the annual Ghana Tennis Association Competition held to determine National Rank.

United Through Sport Academy Tennis players, George and Emmanuel, made up 2 of the youngest of the 64 competitors present at the tournament which would only see players contest one set.

Both of our young talents began with tough opening matches. George began on the centre court, defeating his opponent 6-2 in a confident and stylish fashion. Academy Tennis coach Yaya watched on from the sidelines and revealed that he was content with George’s performance:

“What I see today is better, 90% of it is in his head and he just needs to work on his focus.”

Emmanuel won the first game against an imposing and experienced rival that had almost as many extra inches in height as extra years of experience. Unfortunately, Emmanuel lost the set 2-6 to the former top ranked Ghana Junior player. Coach Yaya added:

“It was a very even match and I am delighted to see the progression Emmanuel is making when we train being transferred onto the courts in official matches. He has matched a very experienced and physically stronger opponent today and could quite easily have come out victorious.”

In the round of 32 George was drawn to play one of the highest ranked Ghanaian men players from last year. Giving away a huge deficit in size and power, appearing just minutes after his first round matchup, 15 year old George battled to a very credible 4-6 defeat in the intense afternoon sunshine. The quality of his opponent brought out a rousing and improved performance that captivated the crowd with some dazzling rallies and fantastic winning shots.

The boys acquitted themselves in admirable fashion and did not look out of place amongst the nation’s best players. Coach Yaya evaluated the performances:

“The main thing we have been working on is trying not to finish on every point. This aspect of both players’ performance pleased me today. The focus and mental aspects were good.”

A tired George said that he would be working harder on the physical side of his training after tiring greatly in his close defeat to one of the top Ghanaian mens players.

With the talent the United Through Sport Academy boys have demonstrated and possess, coupled with the quality of their play and attitudes against bigger, stronger and more experienced opponents, it will surely only be a matter of time until they are challenging each other and the other, younger, Tennis Academy players in the finals of this and other tournaments.

Ghana Tennis Boys compete in Open Tennis Championships

On Friday 27th December 2013, three of the United Through Sport Ghana Tennis Boys competed in the Accra Christmas Youth Open Tennis Championships, held at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Emmanuel Wettey, George Nyarko and Reginald Okai competed in the tournament, representing United Through Sport.

All three boys played exceptionally well and fought every point to the wire in each of their matches. Reginald Okai reached the group stages of the tournament, whilst Emmanuel Wettey and George Nyarko made it through to the final stages.

George finished third overall in the U-14’s competition, after defeating his opponent in his final match which decided third and fourth position in the tournament. Emmanuel made it through to the final of the tournament and finished in second place.

This was a wonderful result for all of the United Through Sport Ghana team and a fantastic way to end 2013. Congratulations boys! Everyone at United Through Sports looks forward to some more fantastic results in 2014!

Venus and Serena Williams visit Argentina

The Williams sisters, United Through Sport Argentina and the Blind Tennis Social Project put on a clinic during an exhibition match held at Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club on 30th November. Serena Williams, world number 1, and her sister Venus worked with children suffering from blindness with the aim to promote more participation in the sport regardless of disability.

With the public asked to remain silent, the sisters used a specially designed ball that would give off a sound that could be heard by the blind children. To everyone’s astonishment the balls were being regularly returned proving what a success this new technology has been.

Over 250 children from disadvantaged communities turned up, along with kids from the Blind Tennis Social Project, to take part in this exciting opportunity. Working alongside two of the worlds most well know tennis players was a great priviledge for all involved.

Serena even posted out the following Twitter message:
“I did something I have never done before today. I played tennis in Argentina with blind kids. The ball made noise. They listened and hit it back. It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Tennis opens doors to so many different people and things. These kids taught me a powerful lesson today. Anything is possible”

Ghana Boys Play in the Accra Senior Open Tennis Championship

Monday 2nd December was an exciting day for two of our Tennis Academy Boys, George Nyarko and Emmanuel Wettey, as they competed in the Accra Senior Open Tennis Championships at the Accra Lawn Tennis Club.

Both George and Emmanuel entered the Singles tournament and joined forces in the Doubles tournament to fly the United Through Sport flag. The Accra Senior Open Tennis Championships attracts players of a high standard and this year was certainly no different, as there were Davis Cup players and former Ghana number 1’s among the entrants. Volunteers and staff attended the tournament to cheer the boys on and show their support.

George and Emmanuel, who are both 14 years of age, played their Singles matches on the first day of the tournament, their opponents were all at least 20 years of age, showing just how talented our United Through Sport boys are already. They each played four Singles matches and won one match each; a fantastic achievement for both boys. On the second day the boys played in the Doubles tournament, although there were no victories for them they both played incredibly well and showed off just how much talent they have. Throughout both the Singles and Doubles tournament, Emmanuel and George did themselves proud, they played their hearts out and fought every single point down to the wire; they both really are big Tennis stars in the making!