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Travel Blog: Gideon Mensah

FCN player travelled home and visited Play Soccer Ghana

Having the chance to go home to Ghana is always something that I look forward to — but over the winter holidays it was something that excited me more than usual.

That was because I had the chance to visit Play Soccer Ghana and see for myself the amazing work they are doing with young people in my country.

Through Common Goal I teamed up with an organisation called Whizzkids — who also do incredible work — but I knew about the work of Play Soccer Ghana and it was only a three or four hour detour on my way home so I wanted to stop by and see them.

The moment I got there I felt at home.

It reminded me of the days when I first started playing football. As a kid I just wanted to play. All of my friends wanted to play. It was just football, football, football and, at Play Soccer Ghana, I saw that same love of the game in the young people.

It felt really good, I felt like growing up for me was similar to the people there so I could relate to them and the things that are going through and experiencing.

Play Soccer are working every day to change lives through football, and they also place a big emphasis on education and take it very seriously.

I think when you have education and football working in balance, these two things can help you find your way in life.

As these kids grow they are not just learning how to play football but they are learning about why it is important to have a good character as well — they are combining it all so they become better people. When I saw that work in action, it made me really happy.

In many ways their ethos is very similar to my club — FC Nordsjaelland — where they encourage us to be better people as well as better players.

After I’d met everyone at the organisation we did a Q&A with the young people and I loved seeing how engaged they were, most wanted to know how I got to where I was and what advice I could give them to do the same.

The answer was very simple.

You have to work hard and when you have good people around you, then you have to listen to them.

You have to give your best all the time and always respect people. Take you education seriously and listen to those that are older than you and who have been through the things that you are going through.

After that we played a tournament which was a lot of fun!

You could see straight away that there was a lot of talent among those players and some of them just need the opportunity to show what they can do.

I loved playing with them.

I wanted them to know I wasn’t just there to sit and talk but I was there with them to play and be involved. I wanted to make them feel like I was actually there.

When it was all over they gave me a drawing of myself from when I was playing with the national team.

Right now, as I write, it is in my room by my TV and it is something that I will keep for the rest of my life, without doubt. It was a beautiful thing to receive.

The next time I am in Ghana the plan is to also visit WhizzKids because they are also doing great work.

But now that I have been to Play Soccer I want to make sure it is something I do every time I go home. It is part of me now and I want to know how the young people are growing, as people, as students, as characters — I want them to know they have a friend.

Ultimately we are role models to young people and the least we can do when we are there is to support and give advice and then they know they can do what they want in life.

I hope they enjoyed my visit as much as I did! Thank you Play Soccer Ghana!