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The 'beautiful game' unites West Bromwich Albion and Ugandan children

by Ritah Aliguma and David Isabirye, Uganda/USPA

KAMPALA, January 11, 2018 - It was with great joy and happiness that the local Ugandan children learnt they would be part of a football clinic at the Mandela National Stadium with two coaches from English topflight club West Bromwich Albion. Almost every parent wanted his or her child to attend, but the number of participant children was limited to hundred.

On the first day, the children from the slums could easily be identified from their dress code, but all that changed when they were given their white and blue kit, the club colours of West Brom. The rest was history as both slum kids and those from the elite class became equals.

West Bromwich from the Premier League had sent two academy coaches, Jonathan Ward and Lawrence Dave, to Uganda for a week long coaching clinic with Excel Football Academy players. They arrived in Uganda on Sunday. At least 300 young footballers between the age of five and seventeen converged outside the training ground of the Mandela National Stadium in Namboole for the exceptional training session which lasted for more than four hours.

The sessions include among others the basics of football: close ball control, passing, heading, crossing, shooting, goalkeeping and positional awareness. The young players came from Patrick Gwayambadde’s owned Excel Football Academy and from the slum area of Acholi Quarters under the Aliguma Foundation, as per recommendation by the Kampala Capital City Authority.

In fact, KCCA facilitated the travel and upkeep of the youth coaches. Dave, with twelve years of experience at West Brom’s academy, is the head of sports at the Albion Foundation and expressed his excitement at working with the young Ugandan footballers. "I am enthused to have an incredible talented crop of young players I am working with,” said Dave. “They are all passionate and willing to learn the game of football. Uganda is really endowed.”

The children received a warm welcome before practice and listened to talk sessions with the help of locals before they got onto the field. An excited Junior Riki, six, invited from the Acholi quarters, said that "I am happy to meet Muzuungu (read White) coaches.”

"They are friendly and have taught us on how to behave well and play football the right way,” said Riki. “They are good. I am happy that these two West Brom youth coaches are here with us.”

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