Monday, July 09, 2007

Bellamy on a mission to Africa

FOOTBALL bad boy Craig Bellamy is turning over a new leaf – by helping Third World kids become sporting superstars.

The Wales captain, who was yesterday on the verge of signing a £8m move from Liverpool to West Ham, is renowned as the firebrand of the football pitch.

But Wales on Sunday can reveal Bellamy’s softer side as he prepares to spearhead a football academy in the war-torn and poverty-stricken African nation of Sierra Leone.

The 27-year-old paid a surprise visit to members of the Sierra Leone Football Association last week. During his stop-over in the capital, Freetown, he handed over footballs and kit to budding teenage players.

But the multi-millionaire dad-of- two from Cardiff wants to follow in the footsteps of David Beckham by running a football academy for budding African soccer stars of the future.

The Sierra Leone Football Association Academy was built three years ago but has stood unused ever since.

But Bellamy has vowed to put his money where his mouth is to make it a world-wide smash.

And he aims to bring in a string of other European footballers to make it a hit.

It’s hoped Bellamy’s academy would help train youngsters to become members of the Sierra Leone U17 squad, known as the Sierra Stars, and the national team.

Reporter on Tolongbo newspaper The New Citizen Christian Trede said: “Craig Bellamy visited the FA secretariat of Sierra Leone last week where he donated footballs and bibs for the players.

“But he informed the club his donation was just a token of what he has planned for us.

“He toured the academy and told the club’s administrative officer Abu Bakarr Kabba that since the academy has not started operating, he has an intention to bring in other colleagues in Europe to help run the academy.

“He made it very clear that he would only help to run the academy if he had the blessing of the club’s executive, but he wanted us to pass his message on to the authorities of his intention to take over the running of the academy.”

Bellamy’s visit to Sierra Leone coincided with a private charity work trip where he spent a week helping to build schools and meeting children.

The striker, married to childhood sweetheart Claire, handed out signed shirts and balls to children as well as taken part in kickabouts with youngsters.

A spokesman for the player’s management company said: “Craig was over there recently

“Craig wasn’t with any other footballers and he didn’t ask for any publicity. He has done an awful lot of charity work.”

icWales - Bellamy on a mission to Africa