Swansea City link-up with academy in Gambia
20th January 2016
Swansea City joined forces with a football academy in Gambia to deliver three days of coaching sessions to young players in the capital, Banjul.
Coaching staff from Swans Academy held football sessions for around 300 young players aged between four and 18 during the visit to Picca Primary Schools and Afia Banjul football academy.
A foundation to support the academy was set up by Burry Port couple Craig and Isabel Goodman after a visit to the West African nation in 2013.
The pair created links with Banjul football academy, helping to raise money to pay for basic equipment and was supported by Swans winger and Gambian international Modou Barrow at a fundraising event in Llanelli in 2014.
Before Christmas they asked the Swans to get involved in a trip to Banjul and take part in coaching workshops.
Jamie Thomas, pre-academy and schools development coach at Swans academy, was part of the coaching team took part in the trip.
"It was a real eye opener and brilliant experience," he said. "We were welcomed to the school on day one with a ceremony before telling the children about the club and holding a coaching session.
"On days two and three we hosted coaching sessions at Banjul academy teaching the players the style of football Swansea City play in the Premier League.
"The young players from both locations were fantastic. Children as young as six travel for miles, while another boy - age 15 - caught the ferry at 6am just to train and play football. You have to admire that dedication.
"We were very impressed with what we saw - their playing ability, attitude and physicality was fantastic.
"All the players knew about Swansea City because of the iconic badge but more importantly to them, because of Modou Barrow!
"Since Modou joined the Swans he has really raised the awareness of the club in Gambia.
"It was an amazing experience for myself and Roy (Thomas). You would walk down the street and people would see the badge, recognise it, flock round us and shout 'Swansea Swansea' or 'Modou Modou'
"It was as if Mo was there with us walking down the road.
"Support for the Swans in Gambia has grown so much since Modou joined the team that the aim of the trip was to go there and give something back to young players."
He added: "You could not compare the facilities to what we are used to, we had some children training with just one boot, but they were proud of what they had and made the best of it.
"It was a real eye opener at just how fortunate we are and that is something I will pass on to young players who train with us at Swansea.
"It was a great experience to give something back to hundreds of young children who just wanted to play football.
"The best part was seeing how passionate and proud they were of what they had and being able to work with them for those few days.
"You could tell it meant a lot to them to have a Premier League club coaching them. It is certainly an experience that will always last with me."