Children and young people in Sierra Leone are crazy about football. So are lots of adults. You see football being played on scraps of empty land and narrow strips of beach all over the country. Every night, large wooden shacks in villages and town suburbs fill up with men who cheer on Tottenham, Chelsea or Arsenal in matches streamed live.
In the three communities we support - Shenge, Mahera and Moyamba - several football coaches have asked us for support with the costs of football strips and balls. We soon realised that football has a value for young people that extends beyond physical health and gamesmanship. Coaches have a lot of influence over their team members. They give talks to young people about the importance of going to school. They tell them about healthy eating, respect for girls and safe sex. As ebola took hold they became important sources of accurate information for young people about how to avoid becoming infected, countering the stories that linked ebola to witchcraft and devils.
So that's why we give modest support to football teams in the three communities.
As yet football is largely a boys' game in Sierra Leone. We are now seeking out female coaches of other sports like netball so that we can support their work with girls' teams.