• Thoughts From Cameroon

    IMG_1374May 9, 2013.  By Earl Strassberger, Amanda Ferguson, and Brian Suskiewicz.  During the last two weeks the three of us have worked in Buea and Mamfe, Cameroon with our partner organization, United Action for Children.  Also heavily involved and participating were our other two Cameroonian partners, AVFAL (Limbe) and Cameroon Football Development Program (Kumba).  Both weeks were great.  UAC is a tremendous host organization, building a FIFA Football For Hope Center, running two private schools that reach 1,000 kids, and running sports programs in various communities.  They also have a great outreach and support program for other groups which we witnessed.  Anyone who needs assistance in Buea or Mamfe reaches out to UAC, and if it is a good cause then they will find a way to support it.

    As we had such a great two weeks together, here are some individual thoughts from our time working here with UAC:

    IMG_1395Amanda:   Never in my life did I think I would be learning and coaching soccer simultaneously…at the base of an active volcano…in Africa.  I find new experiences to be so much more rewarding if you are open to anything that may come your way – and this is no exception.  I was also told that this would be an experience that would change me.  This was grossly understated.  I will be honest and admit that my soccer experience up until this point in my life is extremely limited at best.  Okay, let’s be more honest.  I’ve never played a game in my life.  Gulp.  We’re teaching coaches how to foster a voice within their players; a vital quality in building their confidence.  How appropriate that on our fourth day of work, we were able to see their voices.  The coaches taught us the games we’ve worked on all week and I couldn’t be happier to feel their energy, hear their enthusiasm and SEE their voice.  These coaches and the people here have enriched my life more than I ever could have imagined.  I’m looking forward to another week…or weeks?

    IMG_1159Earl: Mamfe is my 5th (and final) location on this trip.  While there are many similarities, each location had its own uniqueness.  Mamfe’s started with getting here.  We got a ride in a Toyota Land Cruser with six passengers plus the driver, Antoine.  Plus a lot of baggage, a case of soda pop, and 25 bananas purchased on the way.  While the seats were comfortable, there was no room to move our feet.  The ride started out easy on a nice paved road.  But after a few hours the pavement ended.  The dirt road was hilly and full of gullies.  Antoine was marvelous but we were tossed around like rag dolls because of the car-sized craters.  We got the ride in the SUV because we came down with Mr. Orock, the creator of our partner organization, United Action for Children.  Mr. Orock is well-known and generous and we were treated like royalty.  With him we observed a big community football match, while sitting in the front row under a tent. Brian performed the ceremonial kick off and Amanda presented the award to the Man of the Match.  The interest in our training was evident, as we were interviewed by a radio station and even got our picture in the newspaper.  What was the same in all five places were the wonderful coaches.

    IMG_0491Brian: This was my second year coming back to Cameroon.  It is rapidly becoming one of my favorite places in Africa.  The people are warm and inviting and the landscape is beautiful as you can see from our pictures from Buea and Mamfe.  Most of the Southwest province is rain forest, and Buea is situated on the slopes of Mount Cameroon, an active volcano and the third largest mountain in Africa.  UAC is a well-run organization that reached out to anyone who needs assistance, making an immediate impact in their two communities.  The coaches are all excited to be involved and then do a good job implementing what they learn to the local kids.  Working with great groups like UAC, in outstanding locations like Cameroon, is why I love working for Coaches Across Continents.

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  • West Africa 1971 and 2013

    April 5, 2013.  By Earl Strassberger.  I arrived in Ghana at night after 26 hours of travel.  I got a ride to the hostel, so it was not until the next morning when fond memories started to come back to me.  From January 1971 to April 1974 I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia.  This is my first time back to Africa since those days.

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    Coach Earl in action at Play Soccer Ghana

    Before I talk about Cape Coast and Play Soccer Ghana I have to mention what is different and what has not changed.  In the 1970s there was no Internet, no cell phones, next to no TV sets, and bottled water was not everywhere.  We carried iodine tablets and a canteen.  What has not changed is that the food is outstanding.  Banku is new to me, umm-umm! The pineapple is amazing.  The other CAC coaches are laughing with me because I take pictures of all the good food.  My friends at home wish they could taste it.  In addition the people are still so friendly.  You walk by a taxi stand and every driver and their helpers call out to you, “Where are you going?” “Ride with me.”  As you walk along the street little kids come up to you to say hello, and may ask for a gift.  Often they call you obruni (white man).  In Liberia it was quipo, in Ethiopia it was forengy (from foreigner).

    Community Impact Coach Nico from Tanzania loving his time in Ghana!

    Community Impact Coach Nico from Tanzania loving his time in Ghana!

    So what about CAC?  First of all I am meeting the nicest and most interesting people.  Nico, a Tanzanian, was the head of CACs first-ever partner program in 2008.  Now he is CAC’s first-ever Community Impact Coach working alongside the CAC coaches. What a dynamic guy.  Then there is Emily, who recently graduated college in Hawaii, moved to Ghana and became part of CAC.  Nicole, another young lady who lives in Casablanca, Morocco, works for Women Win and is here because of the partnership between CAC and Women Win.  They remind me of my daughter, watching out for me – “Need some help”; “Let me carry that suitcase”; etc.  Both are amazing soccer players and instructors.  It is fun being the oldest person, by far!  I impressed Emily in that I use email, Facebook, and Instagram on my smart phone.  We watched Barcelona play Paris-St. Germain at dinner.  At the end of dinner the waitress came with the bill, looked around for less than one second and brought it to me.  Brian said, “Thanks Dad”.

    Most important is our partner program here in Cape Coast, Play Soccer Ghana.  It consists of a terrific group of people and coaches – enthusiastic, cooperative, eager to learn, and always trying their best.  And they are great players.  We used a FIFA-built, small, turf field called a Football For Hope Center, a legacy from the 2010 World Cup.  Sometimes we had 25 coaches all scrimmaging with one ball.  I was amazed at how players found open space and completed passes regularly.

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    Coach Earl takes a moment to talk to the coaches of Play Soccer Ghana

    Many of these games we teach are played all over the world.  It is the messages on Social Impact that we are conveying that makes CAC different.  Many, if not all, of these messages – responsibility, peer pressure, communication, and more – would be just as appropriate in the United States.  The coaches we have been working with are always positive, and why not.  The Chairman of the Ghana Football Association, Central Region, Mr. M. N. Doe gave the opening and closing keynote speeches.  Coach James Kuuku Dadzie of the Black Queens (the Ghana Women’s National team) attended the ceremonies and observed some of our training sessions.  Later one day we watched him run a “street” team through their paces.  This team consisted of teenage boys and girls.  Some of the girls are on the National team.

    The week was great.  We finish up tomorrow morning and then do some sight-seeing, before starting our next program next week in Accra.  I can’t wait.

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    The FIFA Football For Hope Center in Cape Coast, Ghana

  • Meet Coaches Across Continents in Ghana

    April 1, 2013.  For the next three weeks Coaches Across Continents will be working with Standard Chartered Bank in three different communities in Ghana.  In total there will be four coaches working all three programs.  CAC Staff members Emily Lambert and Brian Suskiewicz will be joined by our first-ever Community Impact Coach Nico Achimpota as well as a coach from the USA, Earl Strassberger.

    23744_396766827072736_286111406_nNico Achimpota has been instrumental for Coaches Across Continents in Tanzania.  His program in Kigoma, Tanzania was our first-ever partnership in 2008.  He has since brought CAC to other communities throughout his native country.  This year, Nico was selected to become a pioneer in another way for CAC, being the first coach to be selected for our new initiative, our Community Impact Coach program.

    EarlEarl Strassberger comes to CAC from just outside Chicago, Illinois.  He has coached and refereed at the High School and AYSO levels for the past two decades.  Prior to starting a family, Earl was also in the Peace Corps and traveled around Africa in the 1970s.  His home location during that time was Liberia, our most recent Community partner!

    Five Questions with Earl:

    1. Favorite TeamI wish my favorite team was the US Men’s National Team but they are not there yet.  As soccer becomes more and more popular in the US, our team will become a world power.  My favorite team was the US Women’s National Team in the Mia Hamm days.  Barcelona is a close second.
    2. Favorite PlayerFavorite player is a tough one, there are so many.  Of course Hamm, but I really like big, tough Abby Wambach.  The way she could head the ball into the net was fanastic.  I’ve always liked Cristano Ronaldo.  Good looking, fast, and skilled.  Then there is the current best player in the world, Messi.
    3. Favorite CoachMy favorite coach is Lovie Smith who was the coach of the Chicago Bears for a number of years.  He never got upset or mad at players.  He treated them with respect.  He did not overly complain to refs.  Sorry, I don’t follow soccer coaches very much.  It is the players’ game.
    4. Favorite Movie –  I did not think I could like a movie about someone with emotional issues but Silver Linings Playbook was outstanding.  After that is Casa Blanca.
    5. Who will win the World Cup 2014? I’ll go with the Netherlands.
    Why are you looking forward to working with CAC?Even though I have not yet been to any country with CAC I am truly enjoying meeting people and seeing what CAC is doing.  I purchased a OneWorldFutbol for myself and three as door prizes for our annual referee and coach luncheon for AYSO Region 568 (Skokie).  I’m learning so much even before I leave!