Thursday, February 7, 2013 (Day 29)
My good friend Graham Foster sent me the scanned copy of the feature about Craig Bellamy you can see above this blog. He spotted it in yesterday’s copy of Metro. Great to see Bellamy getting some acknowledgement but, more importantly, it was more positive media coverage for the CBF league here in Sierra Leone.
The irony of this story is that David Beckham, who is mentioned, has also helped in Sierra Leone and even stayed overnight in Makeni, where I am currently living. I know that many African players who have made it big abroad are trying to ‘give something back’ back home.
Let us hope that more professional footballers follow the examples of the likes of Bellamy and Beckham instead of wasting their riches on gambling and fast cars. Personally, I think super rich and connected FIFA and UEFA should also be doing more to work with projects that encourage education and development through football. More than 2,500 kids are benefiting from the work of the Craig Bellamy Foundation here in Sierra Leone. Imagine how many hundreds of thousands of kids around the world could benefit if FIFA were to mimic this project right across the developing world.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 (Day 28)
I am having most of today ‘off’ so that I can work. Yes, today is the day when I need to proofread the magazine I am editor of back in Latvia: ‘Gateway Riga’.
It is a sign of the times when even in Sierra Leone – ranked 180th (from 187 countries) in the world on the UN’s human development index – I can find a way of working remotely and communicating with my magazine layout designer half way across the world. Truthfully, I am rather fortunate that Makeni has the MJ Motel (photo above is from the reception), otherwise I do not know how the hell I could have downloaded the 20MB pdf file I need for proofreading. It took 30 minutes to download it to my laptop. If I had tried the same thing at the office it might have taken a week.
I was in here at 8.30am this morning just as some Danish and Indian businessmen or engineers or diamond dealers or whatever they are, were having breakfast. The breakfast staff assumed I am staying here as well and brought me over a pot of tea and a fried egg on toast. I was half tempted to play dumb but then felt insanely guilty and told them I was just popping in…for seven hours as it turns out.
I hope Guntis hurries up and makes the final changes to the layout I requested. I have got to go and coach 80 Sierra Leonean kids after an hour and then rush home and scoff my dinner down in time for England v Brazil at the football cinema at 7.30.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 (Day 21)
David Beckham stayed in Makeni once. Seems hard to believe but it is true. The former England football captain visited this town when he was working for UNICEF and is said to have ordered his driver to stop the car at one point so that he could indulge in a kick around with some local boys he spotted playing in the street. He did some very good work here and raised a lot of awareness for the people of Sierra Leone. Beckham stayed at MJ's motel across the street from Flamingo's night club. I thought about that today as I strolled past in the scorching sun and saw the club advertising its upcoming reggae night. The hotel was looted and vandalised during the civil war, in the days when Makeni became a stronghold of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The hotel reopened three years after the end of the civil war; Beckham visited three years later and now I am here, five years after Beckham, thinking about dropping in and asking whether I can take a photo of the room he stayed in for More Than a Game.
"Justin! How are you? Where have you been? The coach was asking why you haven't been back to training." Moses asks me, spotting me outside MJ's. I had intended to join the lads for training this morning but when I woke up feeling like I'd spent a night in the Gobi, I knew I just wasn't up to it. The lads have their playoff match tomorrow evening and Moses has invited me to join up with his team to watch it.
It has been a funny old day for me. Touch wood, I haven't been sick once during my time in Sierra Leone; not as much as a stomach ache or an emergency dash to the toilets. But somehow today I find myself quite blatantly dehydrated. My three-day-old habit of drinking a small bottle of fizzy drink (ginger beer/lemon Fanta/orange parrot) every morning and evening doesn't help; it quenches your thirst but in truth all of that sugar is doing you no favours. I never ever touch fizzy drinks back home. And so I find myself drinking and sweating like a Saharan lorry driver. Fortunately, I thought to pack some rehydration salts but, after a solid morning in the office, it is clear I need to get myself home at lunchtime for a kip and an afternoon session of trying to get my head back together after Monday's events.
More Than a Game joined The Collective and the Craig Bellamy Foundation in Sierra Leone for a seven-week voluntary placement in January 2013.