Tuesday, 16 March 2010
In the autumn of 2003 a member of Reddish Branch of the CSA completed 30 years as a police officer in Manchester and retired. He then started working in Sierra Leone in West Africa, where his job was to train detectives out there to investigate child abuse. Sierra Leone has for the past several years been either last, or second to last in the world wealth league tables published every year. Average life expectancy is around 38 years and living conditions for most people are appalling. On top of all these problems the country has gone through a particularly bloody civil war that lasted 11 years and only ended in 2000. When he arrived in Freetown, the capital City, Tony noticed the usual scattering of people wearing Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United shirts. It soon became apparent that football is massive in the country and most people follow the English Premier League. At the end of his first week he was enjoying a beer at a beach bar when a young man approached him by the name of Armani Sheku KAMARA who was selling watches, sunglasses etc. He noticed that he was wearing a Manchester United lapel badge. As Tony is a dyed in the wool blue he joked with the young man that he could not buy any of his merchandise from a man wearing and Man United badge. Within a short time he agreed to throw the offending item into the Atlantic Ocean and negotiations commenced. It soon became apparent that not only did he have a good knowledge of Premier League football he also had a good knowledge of the ups and downs of Manchester City. He assured Tony that he was only wearing the United badge because a customer had given it to him and he promised him that if I could get him a City shirt he would be a City fan for the rest of his life. Little did he known what that conversation would lead to. In early 2004 Tony returned to Sierra Leone having spent a few weeks back in Manchester, and of course took back with him a City shirt for Armani. Within a few days of receiving the shirt Armani told Tony that he was setting up a Man City Supporters Club in Freetown. When Tony next returned to UK he discussed the Sierra Leone situation, first with Howard Burr the Secretary of the Reddish Branch and then with Alex Channon the Charity officer of the MCFC Supporters Club It was then that the Sierra Leone Branch of the Manchester City Supporters Club was born. On Tony’s next visit he was able to take back with him several dozen assorted City shirts donated by City fans over here. They proved very popular and soon were being seen all around the Freetown streets. Soon Armani had formed a Manchester City Football team in Freetown as well as a Junior Man City team. The problem was that they were wearing a red and white striped kit that they had to rent on a match-by-match basis. Following discussion with Lorraine Firth at Manchester City the club kindly donated a full kit for the team out there. There was also a concerted effort by a lot of Branches to collect a s many shirts, boots as possible these were also sent. Another recent development is that a Reddish Branch member donated a generator for the community where Armani lives allowing around 100 people to have electricity. The shipping of the generator was financed by MCFC Supporters Club funds with the blessing of its members. Tony Griffiths last visited Sierra Leone in March 2007 and we were proud to hear of many men women and children wearing an array of City shirts around the capital and beyond. The football team formed such a short time ago is going from strength to strength and Armani is something of a local celebrity who is frequently interviewed on national radio in Sierra Leone and works extremely hard to promote Man City for no financial reward. The Phuket Branch of the MCFC Supporters Club then very kindly donated both a new home and away kit as many of the shirts donated were getting a bit passed it. On 23rd. November 2008 Man City Youth team appeared in the Sierra Leone F.A. Youth Cup final and WON. Not bad for a team that did not exist 4 years ago. You now can't walk through Freetown without seeing a City shirt and hearing shouts of City Till I die Unfortunately the first team had to pull out of the main league this season as it did not have enough cash - although the league have agreed to keep their place in division two for next season assuming they have funds in place The next phase is to try and help make the team financially independent by raising shed loads for a bus this would double up as both transport to away matches which is one of the most prohibitive costs to the team - Then during the rest of the week it would become a revenue maker by running it as a proper bus in the Capital this would give two people a job and also raise enough cash to keep the teams running. Also it should provide enough to replace the bus every 10 years. This is not just another fund raiser - the work being done is changing lives and keeping young people off the streets and giving them a common bond - it is CHANGING LIVES and even SAVING some.