COACH AMOAKO & ‘MR. BART’
The Kitase Action Boys FC is actually more a community football programme. It is based on an older football club that was established in 2001 by Coach Amoako who is still the figure head of the club and ‘Mr. Football’ in Kitase. During the past sixteen years coach Amoako managed to provide basic materials for training, using his own money to provide as much support as possible thus creating a legion of enthusiastic fans throughout the village. In 2013 the Kitase Action Boys football club had one senior football team with about 20 players training a few times a week and a handful junior footballers who would hang around the pitch most of the time watching the older players. Materials consisted of a set of jerseys, two balls and some cones for training exercises.
In that same year coach Amoako found a person who was able to support him both organisationally and financially. Bart van der Grinten with a major in Exercise Physiology, moved to Kitase with his family and started helping the club, the coach and the players. The players of the football club, representing about 30% of the families of Kitase, come for training every day. It gives the club and its workers a daily opportunity to assess their situation in respect to social welfare and poverty. At the same the football training provides them on a daily basis with a healthy and character building after-school activity instead of wasting time on the street without any guidance involving themselves in bad or even illegal behaviour. A well organised football club therefor alters the basic lives of the players forming and transforming them through a tailor-made approach into well behaving youngsters with an interest in developing their own future. Since then the Kitase Action Boys FC have been steadily grown in size and in level of football. In the next paragraphs the results of these developments will be discussed.
Since 2016 the total number of players of the Kitase Action Boys FC exceeds 150. There are approximately 25 senior players in our senior team which last year. Furthermore there are about 25 players in each of the U17 team (players with a maximum age of 17 years), U15 and U13 teams and more than 50 players in the under 10 category. All players train on a daily basis in the afternoon, with even a second training sessions for the 2nd division team and the U17 and U15 team in the early morning hours.
Our 2nd division team participated in the 2nd division league of the Eastern Region Akuapem South district and was leading the league after 10 of the 14 matches of the season played. If this position had been kept the Action Boys FC team might actually have been promoted to the 1st division, the second highest level of football in Ghana. Ultimately we found ourselves in second position which gives good hopes for a new run towards promotion next season.
The U15 team has been the sole team selected to represent the Eastern Region in the newly established FIFA National U15 Championships that kicked-off in October 2016 and finished in January 2017. Our U15 players of Kitase Action Boys FC played against the top 15 teams of Ghana. According to the Ghana Football Association (GFA) from these teams players will be selected to join the national U17 team of Ghana next year. It is an opportunity never seen in the local setting of Kitase.
Through a wonderful system in the Netherlands where volunteers gather used football shoes we have a steady stream of quality shoes for the players. An estimated 200 pairs find their way from Europe to Kitase every year. Unfortunately, predominantly because of the state of the pitch, players need a new pair of boots every three to four months. That means that on average we still purchase an additional 300 pair of football shoes from the local market each year with an average cost of about 20 Euro each.
Over the years we have received further support from the Netherlands. Especially in the area in and around Venlo in the South Eastern part of the country volunteers are working with local football clubs to gather shoes and also shirts and shorts and footballs, as well as training materials like bibs and cones being donated by organisations and individuals. Earlier in 2016 a company gave 700 dry-fit shirts in different sizes to the Action Boys which are being used daily during training. Several times a year the materials are transported by individuals to Ghana to make them available for the club in Kitase.
The activities in Europe are supported by Johnatan Opoku, a Dutch professional footballer with Ghanaian roots, currently playing for VVV-Venlo in the 1st division of the Netherlands. As an ambassador to our organisation Johnatan’s name and picture are used to promote the charitable activities for the Action Boys.
Last but not least as mentioned before in chapter III paragraph 2d the Kitase Action Boys FC has an arrangement with Medicas Hospital for the medical care of the players and their families. It’s nice to mention that Medicas Hospital paid for two full sets of quality football outfits including jerseys, shorts and socks. Their name is featured on the shirts of the Kitase Action Boys FC as shirt sponsor next to the logo of the club.
Dedicated coaches train the different teams with around 40 balls for all the teams combined. This number of balls allows us to set up exercises focussing on improving the technical skills of the younger players while also working on physical fitness and tactical awareness with the older players. On an average afternoon between 2 and 6 pm all the 150 players can be found on the pitch at different time intervals and with different training activities. Several times a week there are even special training sessions for our goalkeepers.
Due to the lack of junior leagues there are no organised league matches for the younger players. Bet we regularly organise friendly matches on Saturday mornings for most junior teams to have them gain experience in semi-competitive encounters.
Unfortunately our home field is in a deplorable state. The field is shared with the local primary school which means that it is free of charge but over-used. Only about 25% of the pitch is covered with grass while the remaining part consists of sand and stones. The surrounding living areas are dumping refuge at the side of the field which is entering the pitch during heavy rainfall. Because the pitch slopes severely – the top goal stands three meters higher than the down goal! – the tropical rainstorms not only carry all kinds of rubbish onto the field, the water creates trenches of a feet deep through which the rain is thundering down the pitch. The right bottom corner is the collecting area for all the rain water. At this side of the pitch there is a severe slope of several meters high where the rain finally leaves the field to enter the gutter along the nearby road.
This situation leaves the pitch with virtually no level part. Instead the players have to control the ball on sand, stones and rubble that is left after the rain while balancing on stretches of sand or grass in between deep trenches. This situation is of course very dangerous and every week we have numerous incidences where players sustain injuries either because of tripping over the unequal terrain or falling on stones or rubbish like glass, plastic, bottle caps or even syringes. It is very unfortunate that the home field of Kitase Action Boys FC is in such a condition.
In 2016 alone three Action Boys players broke their arm while playing a match for their club and one broke his leg. Those are the more severe cases. The number of players with serious cuts and bruises is countless. It is obvious that the current situation is unacceptable.
The management of the Action Boys with the help of the local chief arranged for a survey by a professional company into building football pitches. They assessed the current pitch and came to the conclusion that due to the severe slope and the direct environment of the field it would cost nothing less than a 100,000 Euro to uplift it to acceptable standards. This is of course not an amount that is reasonable to spend on just a new football field. Other options have to be considered (see the paragraph on the field below for further details).
The field is surrounded by class rooms of the local school. There are no dressing rooms and players are changing their attire while sitting on the door steps of the school or the small stairs of the local church which is situated on top overlooking the field. Personal hygiene is poor and all the players change back into their school uniform or regular clothes after training without an opportunity to take a shower. In the evening time water for bathing is being provided for the players that are receiving boarding.
During the course of the last few years we have professionalised the training by appointing dedicated coaches for each team. Currently we have a technical director in the person of the chairman of the CO Foundation. We have an assistant technical director overseeing the different training activities and matches. We have a head coach for the 2nd division team. The technical director is head coach of the U17 team with a dedicated assistant helping out during training and matches. We have assistant coaches for the U15 and U13 teams and another young coach for the U10 players. And as mentioned before we have a keepers trainer coming in several times a week for specialised training for our goal keepers.
Apart from the technical team we have a general manager, a manager and an assistant manager helping us with the organisation of both the football activities i.e. trainings and matches as well as the social welfare activities. All in all we have eight paid workers and three volunteers including the chairman/technical director, the manager who comes from a financially independent family and the assistant manager, all who are not receiving any payment for their work.
As mentioned before since 2015 we have had several volunteers from Europe assisting us with the activities of the club and the underlying social welfare and poverty alleviation project. Having educated workers with a different experience level joining the staff of the club helped us not only to cope better with the challenges of a growing organisation but also providing the local workers with an opportunity to learn on the job. We have more volunteers that keep assisting us this year and hope to see the same happening in the years to come.
New to the volunteers working for Kitase Action Boys FC are certified coaches who are joining the coaching staff for a few weeks. They not only train the players but also coach the coaches. After a two week visit of a FA-licensed coach from the UK in July 2017 we had the pleasure of working with a UEFA-licensed coach from the Netherlands for another four weeks in July/August of 2017. It is our intention to bring in a team of coaches to work on all the coaches in the area sometime in 2018.