Ten years ago the Glentoran Community Trust embarked on one of the most rewarding and heart warming of projects, that to this day we remain immensely proud of. (writes Sam Robinson).
In 2007 the supporters of Glentoran FC reached out to a football academy for street children half a world away in Sunyani in Central Ghana. Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined that the project which would become known as the Glentoran Academy Ghana would deliver one of its youngsters Afriyie Acquah onto the world stage. Acquah has played for his country in the World Cup Finals in Brazil, the African Cup of Nations Finals where he was awarded Man of the Match, the Italian Cup Final and he currently plies his trade in the Italian Serie A with Torino. He has also played at Parma, Sampdoria and Palermo.
He has never forgotten the love and support Glentoran people gave him at the start of his journey and we remain in constant almost daily contact with the kid from Sunyani who is now a target for both Newcastle United and Juventus.
A household name in his homeland now, he wants to plant the seeds from which both he and we hope a more structured, focussed academy for African children can emerge.
Once again if we can make it happen it will carry the name Glentoran in recognition of the supporters who cared for children they didn't know.
At the end of the month Afriyie and his backroom team will organise a match between two schools in Sunyani. The teams will wear the very first Glentoran A+ Academy shirts. This kit has been commissioned through a scheme involving our great friends at Walkway Community Centre on Finvoy Street and the Trust itself. We have been delighted to have worked with Walkway in the past during the Blitz commemoration and Rachel and her team are delighted to be involved with our return to Sunyani.
Afriyie is keen to select the best players with the best attitude and nature to form his first Glentoran A+ Academy squad.
One day we hope the next great Ghanaian youngster can come and spend some time with Glentoran here in East Belfast just as Afriyie did.
This very initial step has only been made possible through the work of Councillor George Dorrian, the Board and membership of the Glentoran Community Trust and kind individuals who helped us ship the kit which left Belfast on Monday afternoon and arrived in Accra on Thursday morning.
We will of course update you as the work to get the Academy off the ground continues.
If you think you can help Afriyie and us in any way please get in touch.
We also continue to support our own teams and were delighted to offer assistance with transportation costs for the Glentoran Academy 2008's as they successfully participated in round robin tournament on the North Coast. That's some haul of trophies right there. Don’t forget anyone can become a member of the longest running and most committed supporters trust on the island. Details can be found at www.gctni.com