The first group of players and coaches arrived in the parking lot at the Blue Pearl Hotel at Mile 4 - Nkwen on the morning of Thursday, August 6th. The coach and team, which consisted of five players selected to represent their club, Brescia F.C. and the whole city of Kumba, made the journey via public transportation without any troubles, aside from a bumpy ride and police control points which forced occupants off the bus for identification checks. “Bamenda by Night”, as the locals call it, is an overnight bus ride taking more than 10 hours to travel 400 kilometers on both paved and unpaved roads through the Cameroonian jungle of the Southwest and into the grasslands of the Northwest Region. The weary travelers had only enough energy for a breakfast of tea and bread before they retired to their hotel rooms for some rest. They had finally arrived in Bamenda, the host city of the 2015 Super Cup to Develop Young Leaders.
The morning of Friday, August 7th began bright and early with the crow of the rooster and the rising sun. After a light breakfast, everyone headed to the field. Co-founders Peter Ngwane [Cameroon] and Justin Forzano [Pittsburgh] were on site to give a great welcome and words of encouragement to all of the participants, who were reminded that this event was a great achievement and represented the next level of sport for development in Cameroon.
With the group stage came a downpour of rain. Despite the muddy playing grounds, four teams emerged to enter the semi finals and finally the two clubs involved with CameroonFDP the longest, Brescia F.C. (Kumba) and Shalom Future Stars Academy, emerged victorious to meet in the finals.
Both teams stood in line in front of the honorable delegation from the Northwest Region who gathered under the canopy to watch the final match. This was their opportunity to showcase what they had learned from their coaches earlier about the theme of the Super Cup. Spectators listened as players read ‘motivational statements’ about the importance of being a good role model; how community service can improve a neighborhood; and how as footballers specially selected to participate in this event, they are leaders. Many in the audience listened and reflected on the meaning of the Super Cup. It was clear to all that this was about more than the game.
Want to find out who won the cup and what happens next? Check out the full story on our website.
In February, we kicked off our youth league for 6 six clubs from across the town of Kumba. Some of the clubs have been long time partners, like Brescia F.C. who have taken the cup in a 2013 tournament, while some are newly formed, like St. Peter's F.C., which was started by a coach who completed CFDP's coaches training sessions earlier this year and was inspired to build something to invest in the youth in his neighborhood. The ages of the youth playing in this competition range from 11 to 14. We wanted to build the foundaiton of a comprehensive youth soccer league which promotes life skills, leadership, and health education to the community through organized competitions, radio programs, leadership workshops, and service-learning. What started as educational after school programs and U-16 tournaments during the summer holidays has transformed into an integrated learning experience for players, coaches, and members of the community.
CFDP football (soccer) matches are different. We transform the playing grounds into a place of learning - for both players and spectators. Before kick off, players will run warm-up drills/games based on educational football drills they learned from Coaches Across Continents training last June. The referee will "quiz" players on each team about what they have learned from their coach in training sessions leading up to the match. Players will read motivational statements to the crowd, reinforcing their role as young athletes in the community to be role models, create awareness and promote social change Finally, shaking hands between teams and promoting fair play throughout the game concretizes the values of CFDP: this game is about more than winning.
The theme for this first season is GENDER EQUITY. Every match will highlight a different component of this crucial social issue, and Sunday's opening game was no different. The league will run from February through May, thanks to a recent grant from FIFA Football for Hope and the generous support from people like you.
Last week we were in Mamfe to run a second clinic for coaches who continue to support our innovative model for youth development through sport. Our third site in Ndu will see an Easter tournament before summer holidays take place. Our Peace Corps Volunteer has worked in Ndom, another community in the Southwest Region, over the last several months to galvanize the interest of several chiefs of local villages in the region to mobilize their youth and help set up the infrastructure for a youth league to enhance the social infrastructure within the community. We will run some coaches clinics for new community partners later in March.
None of this is possible without your support. We want to first THANK YOU IMMENSELY for supporting our activities in Cameroon and second invite you to follow along on our blog, social media, and website. Stay connected and see what kind of IMPACT YOU CAN CREATE.
Our Youth Enrichment Football League was launched in Kumba in the summer of 2013. We started with a few reluctant coaches and wanted to see how we could incorporate our life skills and health education into competitive soccer. After a few successful attempts and a few failures, too, we found the perfect combination with a balance of learning and play. This gave us the confidence to move ahead with our regional youth league.
In October, we launched our Coaches' Clinics aimed at bringing together amateur coaches and referees, and anyone else who loves soccer, to share with them our new approach to the game. As training workshops continued, more coaches began to see the vision: a holistic approach to youth player development, where there is as great focus on performance on the pitch as their is in the classroom and at home. By the end of the month, we began to see a shift in attitudes of coaches in the three communities where we have planted our roots: Kumba, Mamfe and Ndu. With this new approach, we are creating Community Impact Coaches!
The feedback we got from one of our coaches, Harrison Tetu of Wumjeck F.C. sums it up best:
"The kids are really enjoying the new Plus Seven Model. They are seeing improvements in their behaviour and are having the most fun when they are playing the game. They shake hands to show respect to their peers and do not fight with other teams like they used to. We are teaching them so many things through football that they can never learn anywhere else."
As the saying goes in Cameroon, "Long Live the Republic of Cameroon. Long Live CFDP. "
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