A new hope dawns in Ghana

The choice of Cape Coast as the venue for the new FIFA Football for Hope Centre is no mistake. The coastal city, founded by the Portuguese, served as Ghana’s capital until 1876 and is famed within the country as a beacon of academics. Aside from that, Excelsior, the first football club in Ghana, was formed there in 1903. Cape Coast has a tradition for being first timers, and in Ghana, natives are easily identified by their slang accent and the regular mixture of English with their local language, Fante.

On Saturday 24 March, Oguaa, the local word for ‘Cape Coast’ chalked yet another milestone with the inauguration of the FIFA Football for Hope Centre, christened “Oguaa Football for Hope Centre.” The ceremony was attended by distinguished personalities including the traditional ruler Osabarima Kweku Atta II, Omanhen of Oguaa; Ebo Barton-Oduro, Deputy Central Regional Minister; Kwesi Nyantakyi, President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA); Ian Mills of streetfootballworld; Sampon Kablan, FIFA Goal Development Officer for West Africa, Nana Sam Brew Butler, a former Chairman of the GFA and Chairman of the Oguaa Football for Hope Centre amongst others. The roll call of personalities attests to the significance of the centre as a beacon of development for Ghana's children both on a sporting and social level. It is a legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, and it is the sixth facility to open in the 20 Centres for 2010 campaign.

The centre is hosted by non-governmental organisation, Play Soccer Ghana, a community-based organisation which promotes sustainable grassroots development through sport in 12 sites across the country. With the centre, Play Soccer Ghana will seek to consolidate its activities, establish its presence in the Cape Coast area and act as a hub for regional development. The beautiful structure that will serve children in Oguaa and its environs is situated on the campus of Mfantsipim School, the first secondary school in Ghana - built in 1876. The school is undoubtedly the pride of the city and it is therefore not out of place to locate the centre there. It was built with local materials such as bamboo and mud block and took almost a year to complete.

The centre boasts facilities such as a small-size soccer pitch, changing rooms, a medical room as well as various teaching areas including a laboratory, a library, an administrative block as well as a facility for disabled persons. “We have two programs for the children, one for those five to 14 years and one for those 15 to 22. The first group, we use football to teach them social and health skills. We have formed the Street League for the others to link football with vocational skills,” said Abdul Wahab Musah, Manager of the Centre.

Building on this combination of football and education, the centre have developed a strategy dubbed the “Play Soccer Program.” It is divided into two learning levels to respond to the developmental stages of participating children, operating with the motto “Play for fun, Learn for life”. It will weave football, health and social skills into a fun, activity-based curriculum that is free and open to all. Another programme is the Street League, which has already chalked up some successes in attracting participation. The disabled have also been taken into account, and the Cape Coast School of the Deaf has been integrated into the league. “It’s highly overwhelming to see how the Street League participants are able to make friends with their deaf counterparts, exchanging text messages with each other,” Wahab noted.

Over 200 children attended the inauguration ceremony. Clad in their beautifully designed T-shirts and guided by their coaches, smiles dominated the action as they played on the artificial pitch. For most of them, it was the first time they were having the feel of such a facility. Patrick Eshun is a 13-year -old pupil at the Adom A.M.E. Zion Junior High School, and he says he has an ambition of becoming a leader in his society one day. Eshun likes football and also aspires to don the Black Stars jersey one day. “I am very happy to participate in the programme. Whenever I come here I meet my friends and we play together,” he said. “After playing I go to the classroom to learn with them too. We are always happy and want to come here every day. Our coaches also teach us health skills like malaria prevention and how to keep our bodies clean.”