What I know about Sierra Leone

Is that for a long time there was a war going on where child soldiers and teenagers fired up on drugs murdered and mutilated in the most appalling way.  That the then British government sent a small force to intervene and that peace and democracy has returned to this abjectly poor country.  I am proud that a Government I voted for and supported intervened to stop the madness that was happening.

Before he became a Manchester City player my view of Craig Bellamy was not good.(wiki)  I thought he was an ignorant thug.  How much snoberry was involved in that view I’ve not thought too much about.  On the inestimable Norm blog he does a profile of another blogger every week where he publishes the answers the blogger has given to a set of questions the Normster has provided.  One of the questions is:

“Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you’ve ever changed your mind?”

Whilst it is hardly a major moral, political or intellectual issue one thing I have changed my mind about is Craig Bellamy.  One reason could have been that, as most supporters will say about a player for their team, “he’s our thug so it’s OK.”, but its not that.  Exposure for a long amount of time allowed me to see that he was actually a big hearted player who just wanted to do his best.  If he gets involved in trouble its because he’s committed to his team.  I didn’t manage to convince a fellow City fan, I sometimes watch the matches with here in Strasbourg, about this.  Then I saw a video on the fantastic MCFC website about the foundation he had set up in Sierra Leone to encourage school attendance and to improve football in the country.  Here’s the website for the Craig Bellamy foundation.

I can do nothing but admire the humanity of a man who went to a country and saw the problems in one of the Worlds poorest countries and saw a way they could help, and then they did help in a real and practical way, some of it with their own money.

You can see the video of Craig Bellamy talking about his foundation on the MCFC website here.  I’m just sorry eiher my ignorance or their control freakery doesn’t allow me to post the video here.

So I thought that was it for City and Sierra Leone.  How wrong I was.  Did you know the country has the largest supporters club outside the UK?  Nor did I.

A City supporter retired from the Police and he went to Sierra Leone to train the Police force there.  After work he went to a bar on the beach and was approached by someone selling sunglasses and other trinkets.  The City fan refused to buy anything as the local person was wearing a United supporters badge.  The local said that if the City fan returned with a City shirt the local would be a City fan.  You can see more about it here.  The fan returned with a City shirt and it lead to the creation of the Sierra Leone MCFC supporterDo they not look the parts club.  It also led to the creation of a youth and other football teams as you can see here.  The Freetown MCFC supporters were not able to make their away matches because of the lack of transport so the former police officer City fan returned to the UK and started fundraising to get them a minibus so they could go to away matches.  The club and other supporters groups got involved and you can see more about it here.

The bus would not only provide transport to away matches for the team but would also be put to use during the week to provide a couple of members of the supporters club with an income working as bus drivers around Freetown.  Watch further videos about the saga of getting the bus there here, here, here and here.  The bus has now arrived and was even used by the Sierra Leone Football Federation to take the South African team to the stadium for a recent match.  Further information about them can be found on their blog about it here.

It is humbling what a difference two people, together with a number of others, have managed to make in a poor country.  If you can please donate to help either initiative via the website links given. (Hat Tip to MCFC Sierra Leone for the last picture.)

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