I am live across Sierra Leone on national radio. This is one of those nice head spins you will always remember and occasionally chuckle to yourself about in the years to come.
Alex and I have joined a gentleman from the education ministry and a football journalist for an hour-long chat show and phone in on Radio Maria which is going out live across Makeni, Bo, Kenema and the capital city.
We are here to plug the inter-primary school cup and the work of the Craig Bellamy Foundation in Makeni and across the nation. We go on air in the station’s sound-proofed recording studio at 8.30am and I get my first question from the programme’s host fifteen minutes in. Alex has prompted me that my first question will simply be about why I have chosen to work in Sierra Leone so when the host asks: “Please Justin, tell us about the relationship between the Craig Bellamy Foundation and Makeni.” My mind goes blank with panic for a second. Like a politician I find myself buying time with a few fluffy sentences while I get my head together and actually answer the question. Once that panic has passed I manage to get my game together for the remainder of the hour-long show.
Actually, I am enjoying this. As well as being incredibly surreal it is also rather good fun. One caller phones in to discuss the Sierra Leone Premier League play off finals; while another caller asks what we think the starting line-ups will be for tonight’s Real Madrid versus Manchester United match. We discuss the merits of promoting education through football as well as the pitfalls and frustrations of scouting young players for academy football.
“Hello to Justin and Alex from the twin sisters in New London” is one of the text messages read out on air. I just know that is Bob trying to make Alex and I laugh.
The programme ends with our individual predictions for tonight’s Champions League matches. There is indignation and laughter that an Englishman could possibly think Real Madrid will beat Man U.