The Beautiful Game

Posted on Sep 10, 2013

 

Do you love or hate football? Do you think the tsunami of money that has engulfed the Premier League in the ten years since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea has destroyed grass roots football in England or brought us the most exciting league in the world? Is Wayne Rooney worth paying £250,000 a week? Is Fernando Torres?

Whatever your views football is the language of the world. Especially English Premier League football.

Fishing Boat with Chelsea Emblem

On my visits to Sierra Leone I have been amazed how many people watch its games by satellite. I have had the most bizarre conversations in remote and poor places about the merits of the Manager’s substitution policy for my team Chelsea, or why a young player has been loaned out to a Dutch team rather than being given experience in England.

It’s incongruous but wonderful, an immediate bonding and friendship that traverses culture, wealth, language and circumstance.

However nothing prepared me for Bumpetoke. I wrote about my visit to the Millione school in this impoverished small fishing village on the south coast in an earlier blog (Hyperlink). Electricity is scarce, there is no running water, the economy is subsistence. But they have Premier League football. The village hall has an old box style TV, deeper than it is tall, and outside the satellite dish on the roof looks towards the stars ready to receive another universe.

Satellite dish

A board outside announces that day’s games. When I visited they were waiting for Manchester United v Wigan and Fulham v Liverpool amongst others on a busy weekend of football.

Football fixtures

Many kids declare their allegiance by wearing shirts of teams such as Chelsea

Kid in Chelsea shirt

Western people are few and far between in places like Bumpetoke. Curious at being the centre of attention for the children my Action Aid colleague from London asked whether there had been westerners in the village before. Oh yes she was told, in the 19th century when the missionaries came.

I don’t know whether it was really true that we were the first westerners since the missionaries, but the likes of Wayne Rooney and Lionel Messi are certainly the ones they know best.

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