3,600 miles to Stevenage soccer squad’s away fixture, and they’re all set for lift-off

Stevenage FC Foundation. Gambia trip.
- Gambia - April 2014
© Kevin Coleman 2014

Stevenage FC Foundation. Gambia trip. - Gambia - April 2014 © Kevin Coleman 2014 - Credit: Kevin Coleman

A Stevenage FC team have a long trip ahead of them as they set out to fulfil their next fixture.

Stevenage FC Foundation in The Gambia

Stevenage FC Foundation in The Gambia - Credit: Archant

Just 300 days after returning from the northern Gambian village of Sittanunku, the Stevenage FC Foundation squad is preparing to head back to the African country to continue their pioneering work.

Last year, the charity took 15 volunteers to the village to coach, teach and build an adventure playground.

And they fell in love with the village to such an extent that Foundation staff have been sponsoring its football academy from their own pockets ever since.

The party setting off next Friday will be even bigger – it includes six primary school teachers, Foundation coaches, a solicitor, an accountant and a 74-year-old Stevenage fan.

The recruitment process began in May last year when more than 60 people went to an information evening at The Lamex Stadium.

A total of 40 volunteers from all walks of life were eventually selected for the trip and the mammoth task of raising £40,000 began.

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The trip has had to overcome a string of barriers because of the deadly Ebola virus which has spread across West Africa.

Although The Gambia has never been infected by the virus, tourism – the country’s main industry – has slumped and flights to the country have been slashed to a single weekly service.

That means the party has had to be trimmed back because of the lack of transport available, but 20 volunteers will be on their way to coach, teach and regenerate the Mansa Wally Football Academy next week.

They will be installing dugouts made by head groundsman John Ryder as well as new goals and 12 solar powered floodlights, all of which were sent to The Gambia in October in a 40ft shipping container along with donations that included medical supplies, bikes, educational materials and sports equipment.

Stevenage FC Foundation head Alex Tunbridge said: “Last year’s trip was a fantastic experience and a steep learning curve, this year is all about implementing a sustainable legacy that will allow us to make a long-term impact.”

The project has been planned in partnership with Football Gambia, a non-profit UK charity which promotes education through football in the African nation.

It works with communities, football clubs and schools to ensure that children and young adults go to school and live a healthy lifestyle.

To keep up to date with the seven-day trip visit www.stevenagefc.com or follow the Foundation on Twitter @borofoundation.

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