Training soccer-crazy youngsters in Africa has been a “humbling” and “eye-opening” experience for West Norfolk community football coach Sam Loomes.
He found many of the children playing on unmarked sandy pitches which were full of holes, with goals of different sizes and constant thunderstorms which turned everything into a quagmire.
But he said he also saw passion and enthusiasm for the game and some talented players that he would have loved to see playing on the pitches back home.
Sam is now home at Terrington St Clement after two weeks on a voluntary trip working with schools and football clubs in Ghana, which also involved spending money on gifts from Watlington Primary School.
He stayed with a family in Accra and spent most of his time working with the Cantonments Football Club’s first team.
“Considering the pitches they have to play on they are technically very gpood players,” he said., “It certainly challenged me as a coach, trying to deliver a training session to players who didn’t understand my language and the concepts I was trying to get over. I had to speak very slowly when explaining and demonstrating my practice was very important.”
Sam is the Terrington and Marshland football area manager and Watlington school, where he works as a coach, had raised a staggering £1,700 which he and fellow volunteers spent on education products including books, pens and pencils and schools uniforms for two schools for under-privileged children and three football clubs.
He said: “The looks on the children’s faces was priceless. They were being given things they had never used before but which we take for granted.”
One of the schools was little more than a shed, he said, and when it rained the children rushed out with mugs and buckets to catch the water running from the roof to drink.
As it was the rainy season there were constant thunderstorms, flooding and power cuts; yet there was no running water where he stayed so taking a shower involved collecting water in a bucket.
He said: “The trip itself has been a real eye-opener and very humbling and it certainly made me realise how lucky we are to be living in our culture, taking so many things for granted.”
Before his trip, Sam raised money to part-fund his trip and spend on the people he would meet by tackling a 100-mile bike ride across Norfolk.
“I would like to say thank you to my friends Shane Lucas, Aidan Clarkson and Calum Bacon who did the ride with me; and also to everyone who donated, including family and friends and the students at Watlington who raised so much money. It has made a massive difference to those people in Ghana.”