Wednesday, July 16, 2008

West Ham 'Keeper's Holiday in Kenya

It's not often that a professional footballer uses his time off from the game to give back to the community.

Much too often, the footballer is involved in a transfer saga, a money dispute or something worse.

So it was with great respect and admiration that I read this article in Saturday's Independent newspaper about the exploits of West Ham goalkeeper Ron Green's volunteering holiday in Nairobi, Kenya.

Instead of 'boring myself on different beaches' as Green puts it, he wanted to explore and see parts of the world he might not otherwise see.

So he made off to Kenya, a country recently embroiled in political violence.

Once there, Green's view on life changed. His perspective shifted and one might say he grew great admiration for the people in the slums of Nairobi.

Here's a small excerpt of the article. For the entire article, please click here ...

I would be able to experience something different, something that I could learn from, appreciate a whole different level of life. And, most importantly to me, perhaps I could even use the status of a Premier League footballer for some good.

Playing professional football you surround yourself in a bubble. For 11 months of the year you don't have a choice of truly experiencing real life. Having left school and gone straight into football, I have played almost every day of my adult life. As far as lives go, I admit I have a pretty great one. But as far as life experiences go, it has been of fairly limited scope.

In a similar way, life as a footballer is self-focused. It can be easy to take for granted the life that you lead. Focusing on the negatives, not appreciating what you have, things that anyone in the western world could be guilty of. As a footballer you live on challenges, whether they are set by fans, managers, media, the opposition or yourself. This summer I wanted something to challenge the habits, thoughts, and beliefs that I had built into myself after 12 years of full-time football.

So around Christmas last year I approached a number of charities with my thoughts on how I wanted to use my summer break. Amref (the African Medical Research Foundation) came across as positive and active and saw my interest as an opportunity they could make something of: to use football and, in particular, the popularity of the Premier League as a vehicle to spread their Aids, HIV, health and peace messages.

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