Sunday, 3 October 2010

We are back but Beyond Borders starts now

Between September 1st – 22nd 2010, 15 student footballers from the University of London lead by Toib Olomowewe (History & Economics), travelled across Ghana and engaged in grass roots organisation with local NGO’s and community groups, cross-cultural and political dialogue with students, and collected research on local perceptions towards education and development in the Southern regions of Ghana, using football as the medium of exchange.

SOAS Football Beyond Borders is a SOAS student lead project that uses the universal game of football to engage with communities across the world with the objectives to: include the voice of grassroots communities within the academic debate, break down barriers and prejudices, champion education, and create a transnational network of students dedicated to international development.

Paul Agyeman-Duah a Sociology and Political science student at the University of Ghana who was engaged through the tour reiterates its importance by stating, ‘in a global village international and cross cultural dialogue is important, football is a great means for this, football unites people, football truly goes beyond borders’.  

The students travelled across the Central, Eastern, Ashanti, and greater Accra region of Ghana over three weeks playing 7 football fixtures, running voluntary projects, and engaging in debate with students. The tour started in Legon at the University of Ghana before moving to: Kumasi, where the team played Kumasi Polytechnic; Elimina, where they played the University of Cape Coast and worked with the S.A.B.R.E trust that is improving the educational infrastructure in rural communities; before the tour closed in the coastal village of Kokrobite. In Kokrobite the team volunteered with the Kokrobite Chiltern Centre (KCC) that supports primary education in the village. The KCC was co- founded by Jane Zohoungbogbo who commended the project as ‘a great effort’.

Symeon Brown (Economics and Politics), a tour participant stated ‘Development is future business and I am thankful that I have been able to reconcile my development studies with grass roots development organisation and exchange ideas about the future of Ghana’s economy, education system, and society with the students that will lead Ghana’s future ’.  Timothy Omacar (African Studies and History) another participant said ‘travelling to Ghana was eye opening and the reception was amazing. Beyond Borders was definitely a huge success’.

More information can be found at the SOAS Beyond Borders online home From the tour four audio podcasts on: education, development, society, and investment in Ghana recorded over the tour will be available for download in December 2010.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

SOAS vs. Elmina Sharks

SOAS vs. Elmina Sharks - won 2-0.

Hard fought, every step of the way.

Congratulations to Nick!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Development in Action

SOAS Beyond Borders get their hands dirty helping the S.A.B.R.E. Trust build a community latrine.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Captain's Log: Development on my mind

The first 10 days of our journey was nothing short of mind blowing: We spent some time working with children that have special educational needs in a local school. We also volunteered at a hospital for disabled orphans. We were been given a “baptism of fire” by the University of Ghana football team. We were able to successfully engage in dialogue with the University of Ghana students. We were asked to name and officially open the “Beyond Barbers” barbershop in Kumasi. We have even featured on Ghanaian TV and radio!

These are just a few of the things we have been doing and it gives a flavour of what we have been up to. As we leave Kumasi, we look forward to our jam-packed schedule in Cape Coast. It involves 3 training workshops with children, as well as two volunteering sessions with a local NGO. Our games there are against two Div. 1 sides as well as the University of Cape Coast.

We flew out from Heathrow airport on the morning of September 1st and landed in Lagos later that evening. We then faced a 14hr overnight stay in transit whilst we waited for our connecting flight to ghana at 7am. The airport stopover was filled with plenty of conversation amongst ourselves and airport security, but on the whole was pretty uneventful.

The real action kicked off once we touched down in Accra. We were met at the airport by Eric K. Akwei, a friend of Tom & Jasper, and Doe Abega, a staff member in the sports faculty at the Univ. of Ghana, and taken to the university campus. The day was spent meeting various supporters of the tour ranging from the University of Ghana sports faculty, the Dean of Student services, and the executives at Gold Coast Matcom. Gold Coast Matcom are the sole distributors of Dimes juices, our team sponsor, in Ghana and have been incredibly generous in their support. They organised a 20 seat minibus and driver for our entire stay in Accra, as well as donating well over 1000: milk drinks, fruit juices, cakes, and biscuits to the Beyond Borders project and the University of Ghana students.

Once we had settled in we went about exploring the campus and two things immediately became apparent; the sheer size of the campus and the open and inviting nature of the students on it. The University of Ghana is the premier higher education institution in Ghana. It is a state university and therefore heavily subsidised by the government; fees roughly equate to £140 per academic year for Ghanaian students and £450 for international students (outside of Africa). To put this into context, private universities charge roughly £750 per semester, whilst the expected average graduate salary is roughly £200 per month. For the vast majority of the students in Ghana private university simply isn’t an option. The Univ. of Ghana is often ranked as #1, only occasionally being move to #2 by Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology. Competition for admission is ferocious, but this doesn’t mean that the students here are a bunch of lifeless bookworms and academic drones. Every night popular r&b music can be heard from any halls of residence until the early hours, this is normally replaced by a couple of hours of silence before the morning singers reclaim our ears. Football is played from 6am until darkness on any spare space, whilst handball, athletics, and hockey seem to be popular too. Basketball pick-up games are played through the night under the floodlit courts. This campus is a cauldron of energy and it is epitomised by the fantastic market we found. It became our daily stop for jollof rice, fish, plantain, pineapple, coconut, water, chicken and a raft local specialities we came to love.

We ventured out of the campus quite a few times and these visits opened our eyes as to what life is like for many of Accra’s inhabitant. At the University of Ghana it became easy to forget that we were surrounded by predominantly middle-class and well off students. However, our trip to the fishing hub of Jamestown painted a far more sober picture of life in Accra for the average citizen (picture). The time we spent at the hospital for disabled orphans was particularly powerful. It is hard to capture with words exactly what we witnessed and the impact this had on the team; I only hope the pictures can give you all an insight. As soon as we left the orphanage a great debate was sparked about the nature of development and the sustainability of it. As a SOAS student this was nothing new, however this debate has a unique angle to it. The debate had a new and localised tint to it. People we debating from the heart and offered their solutions according to what they had just experienced on the ground at grassroots level; this is exactly what Beyond Borders is about.

Captain’s Log: Toib Olomowewe

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Arriving in Kumasi

We’ve arrived in Kumasi and have been treated to the hospitality of Chris and Kofi at Chabda Events, who have arranged a match for us later this afternoon against Kumasi Polytechnic - and who have been welcoming us into Kofi’s home every night for an evening meal. Ghanain hospitality truly is something special.

The team has been training heavily and putting into practise new techniques and strategies which we hope will match Ghanain ninja football. Today’s match will be televised by GTV 3 - we only hope we can do our country proud…

SOAS vs. Africa United Football Club

SOAS vs. Africa United Football Club

Lost 3-2 - Scorers: Sami Hamdi, Timothy Omacar

Monday, 6 September 2010

Football Beyond Borders 2010 kicks off

After all the hype, Football Beyond Borders 2010 was beginning to unravel. A day of travelling and then another to recover. Yet we now found ourselves on the side of a bone-dry pitch, on a humid Saturday afternoon. This wasn’t for the faint hearted; fast paced technical football from the Ghanaian University Champions represented a different footballing culture to the British one that encouraged hopeful long balls and last ditch slide tackles. We would soon find ourselves toiling away, “pass and move” with an effortless physical prowess that left us chasing shadows.

One-nil down at half-time and almost every sinew of energy exerted, “don’t chase the ball” just “let the ball do the work” the coaches told us. Yet the round ‘ball’ that we’d all grown up with, the ‘ball’ that we’d kicked together back home uniting us as friends now seemed so different. This was a ‘ball’ that was hard to retain and even harder to retrieve. British brute force was futile in the face of this African artistry, the Ghanaians danced on the ball and we were forced to watch and learn as we ran in vain. This was a baptism of fire into the Sub-Saharan African heat.