Craig Bellamy on Soccer in Sierra Leone
31st January 2012 · 2 Comments
Over the past five years Bellamy has sunk £1.2m of his own cash into establishing a not-for-profit football academy in the Kono region.
‘I don’t do this for people to have a different opinion of me,’ Bellamy says. ‘That’s not too important to me.’ But it will display an aspect of Bellamy’s personality not always on view.
‘The beauty of the country, it’s just remarkable,’ he says of Sierra Leone. ‘What I found even more amazing than that was that everywhere I went everyone knew who I was. We’re talking about African villages as you’d imagine it from hundreds of years ago – huts. Then a child walks past in a Steven Gerrard shirt.
‘The kids weren’t playing with footballs, they had rolled up socks or oranges, but their love for the game is what we had 20, 30 years ago. With computers, cars, very rarely do you see kids on the street here any more. Sierra Leone just brought that back and made me think: “I’d like to do something”.
‘That I’ve been able to help people in a worse situation gives me more satisfaction that anything football’s been able to give me. Whether I go on to achieve something in football, or not, I can go back to see Sierra Leone and see what I’ve been able to help.’
Bellamy’s involvement in Sierra Leone began in 2007 when he visited a friend from Cardiff working in construction. It started a change in Bellamy but that process has increased rapidly recently.