Africa on the Ball is more than just a football team. It is a revitalising attitude and mentality.
Most importantly, it is a belief that football can facilitate improvement and the achievement of goals, not only for individuals and teams, but also in underdeveloped and deprived communities.
Africa On Thew Ball operates in Lusaka, the heart of Zambia. Zambia is the eleventh poorest country in the world. About 68% of Zambians live below the recognised national poverty line. Social indicators continue to decline, particularly in measurements of life expectancy at birth and maternal mortality. The countryâ€™s rate of economic growth cannot support rapid population growth or the hiv/aids-related issues straining the economy.
Despite Africa being a continent extremely passionate about football, finding organised leagues and competitive fixtures for many young Africans is difficult. Financial restraints hinder the ability of communities to construct all the necessary details.
Beneath all the deprivation and obstacles, a group of boys in Kalingalinga, a compound in Lusaka, posses a sense of hope. They believe that with the right attitude, discipline and leadership, they can improve the community which they were born into. They can make a difference.
Andrew Jenkin, co-founder and trustee of Africa on the Ball, believes the power of sport can assist in the strengthening of communities like Lusaka.
â€œWe wanted to use football as a tool to help many of these unfortunate young African children, so weâ€™re funding and supporting teams in communities where we feel we can make a difference,â€ says Jenkin. â€œWeâ€™re using our teams as a platform for the children to learn about communication, leadership, discipline and the values of life such as working hard.â€
The Kalingalinga branch of Africa on the Ball is only the first of many proposed, and the signs of community development are already clear.
Elena Sarra, fellow trustee of Africa on the Ball says, â€œSimply being part of the team teaches the boys the importance of leadership, commitment, team work, focus, determination and gives them confidence in their power to achieve their goals on the pitch as well as in life.â€
Africa on the Ballâ€™s Kalingalinga Under 17s team won promotion from their division in their first full season as a team, an impressive feat for any team in the world. Although results on the pitch are important to the organisation, it is what happens off the pitch in the community that lies at the heart of Africa on the Ballâ€™s purpose and mission.â€œWhilst the league is a great chance for our young players to play other local teams and be competitive, the children also learn important things about hiv,â€ says coach James Banda
Africa on the Ball is making plans to grow in the future. â€œWe have started with the boys in Kalingalinga because this is where we had the contacts and support on the ground,â€ says Elena. â€œHowever, our aim is to expand well beyond Lusaka and Zambia to other communities all over Africa. Sport is an incredible tool to break down any barriers linked to race, culture, religion, background, age or gender. We are already looking around for potential girlsâ€™ teams to support.â€
Sports like football speak to youth in a way no other form of discipline can. It is through organisations like Africa on the Ball that we will see a substantial amount of advancement and development toward a brighter future.