Priory Park pitch in to help their coach fulfil his dream of developing an academy in Senegal
- Credit: Archant
At Priory Park Football Club the focus has always been on enabling youngsters to play regardless of their wealth – and they are now planning to put that philosophy into practice in Africa.
Enjoyment comes before profit. The Crouch End outfit charge £75 as a registration fee per season for those who make the team – which includes a kit, insurance and match fees – and subs of £3 per practice session, while there is a boot bank for children who cannot afford them.
All of the coaches are voluntary and fathers of the players, and the club has paid for each of them to take their FA Level One badges.
The results have been good in the five years since the project’s inception, both in terms of attendance and success on the pitch.
There are 185 boys and girls on the books and five teams play in the Camden & Regent’s Park Youth League. Last season Priory Park won two leagues and were runners-up in two cup competitions.
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The club donates to local charity Action for Kids – and now the aim is to look further afield as well and help one of the coaches, Saidou Jarju, to fulfil his dream of building a grass pitch for a football academy in his home town of Ziguinchor in Senegal.
Jarju is a former professional who played for Casa Sport in the Senegal First Division – and Premier League stars Bacary Sagna, Papiss Cisse and Sadio Mane also came from his village.
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The 36-year-old is now determined to return to his roots and help to develop a new generation of Senegalese stars, using Priory Park as the model for the academy, which is part-run by his brother.
Priory Park’s co-founder Kirt Hussein told Ham&High Sport: “The level of commitment he has shown in helping the kids has really resonated with the club as a whole – it would be great to help him fulfil his dream.
“He’s played a big role in helping the boys and girls develop, being the first to arrive at training to set things up and the last to leave. We’ve so far raised £1,500 but the target is £10,000 – we’d love to help him achieve his goal back in Senegal.
“If we can get this pitch built with changing facilities, we would like to turn them into classrooms as well and open up a school to teach the kids how to read and write.
“Every day, Saidou’s brother gets 60 or 70 kids turning up outside his house to play football on these mud pitches without any boots and just one ball.
“We’re trying to raise money but we’re also really keen to have any second-hand kits or boots that people are willing to donate. They can bring them to us at Priory Park between 10am and midday on Sundays and we’ll ship it out to Senegal.
“Saidou went out there for about a month and when he came back he showed me all these photos of kids queuing up for the bibs and balls he took out there. There were smiles on all their faces and I thought ‘we could take this further’.
“We do a lot for our own in this country, but we don’t do anything for those kids out there, and they’re the ones that need this help.”
Hussein continued: “Saidou’s doing great stuff for our Under-nines but he’s always wanted to give back to the people he grew up with. He’s an adopted guy himself who grew up as one of 20 kids with one woman in a dilapidated shack. They see a pen and pad and think ‘this is amazing’.
“We have kids turning up for football moaning that their boots are too small or that they don’t have the latest Nike Mercurials. Then you see these kids [in Senegal] turning up barefoot.
“There may be one kid out of the 60-odd being coached who could be a Premier League footballer, and this would change his life forever.”
Jarju said: “I would love to give back to my community and to mirror the success of the club back home. Kirt has really made it about the community, and he kindly worked with the sponsors to send out bibs and balls the last time I was out there.
“In Senegal the children are taught French, but they really want to learn English as they know it’s essential for employment.
“We want to have English teaching facilities to run alongside the academy. We’re in the middle of locating a plot of land to build the pitch with a wall and storage. Everything here is done a lot quicker than back home, but we will get there in the end.
“People in this country love to help others. The kids in Senegal are so thankful for what they’re receiving and it’s a very humbling experience for the kids here too to see what it’s like to receive a second-hand pair. It’ll help those here to think a little bit about how fortunate they are.”
For more information about joining Priory Park visit www.PrioryParkFC.uk, and you can donate at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/kirt-hussein