TRCH Nov 19

Sherwood FC Support Malawian Footballers

29 August 19 words: Isaac Seelochan

Local Notts football team, Sherwood FC will play a charity match on Sunday 1st September at Radford FC to raise money for the five junior teams they sponsor in Malawi. The match will feature former players and coaches from Sherwood against St Nics FC, a church team from Derbyshire. I spoke with some of those involved to find out more about the match and this unique relationship.

Sherwood FC are one of the biggest grassroots football clubs in Nottingham, with 33 teams from under 7 through to adult, but what does it have in common with a country which was ranked as the fourth poorest in the world by the Global Finance Magazine this year?  

“Sport is a universal language,” said Ben Wildman, a former under 18’s coach at Sherwood FC who will be playing in the charity match; “If a coach is able to be a good role model to the kids particularly where there’s a lot of crime, then through sport, the coach really has a chance to teach them what’s right and wrong and give them the discipline, leadership and all those good things that sport does.”   

 Ben has stayed connected with the club since leaving Nottingham to move to London and with the help of a Christian organisation called Sports Friends, he has traveled to Malawi every summer over the past five years to aid the development of football coaching in the country and to provide them with the equipment needed to play the game.   

Returning to Notts for the charity match on September 1st, Ben will play a half for both Sherwood and St Nics FC, a team formed by him.  “When I come back, it’s going to be a great celebration for me,” says Ben; “All the lads who will be playing in the charity game, they were part of the under 16’s and under 18’s team that I coached, so I will obviously get to see them again, which will be great.”   

Earlier in the year, Sherwood FC chair Simon Buttenshaw helped raise £600 through a crowdfunding campaign for the sponsored teams the club has in Malawi after they were severely affected by the cyclones across the country.

The damage meant that some of the boys were left homeless, whilst one of them suffered a broken leg after a ceiling collapsed.  “I’m in touch with a guy who works for Sports Friends called Fostance. He gives me updates traveling around the country finding out how the teams are getting on, he’s incredibly warm and refers to me as a brother,” Simon told me. 

“When the cyclones and floods hit, I messaged him and he came back and said, ‘our young footballers have not been unaffected by this’ and so in my polite English way I said let me know if there’s anything we can do to help, to which he replied straight away with a big list of things they needed urgently, so that’s why we did the fundraiser.  People were very generous. When I was pleased to get the initial photo showing all the old Nottingham sponsors on the shirts, one sponsor who heard about the fundraising appeal sent us £200 which is incredibly generous. He obviously felt a bond with the players in Malawi, with them wearing the shirt with their sponsor on it.”   

Now, Simon is hoping that the charity match will help raise enough money to sponsor the teams in Malawi for another season.  “Ideally, if we can raise enough to send £600 for the five teams, that would sustain them for another season,” explains Simon.  “I can’t necessarily expect the committee to sign off supporting teams in Malawi every season, we’ve got our own teams to run, so I thought we ought to do something above and beyond what we normally do.  

We’re trying to include as many people from around the club as possible, so before the game there’s going to be some small-sided games between our under 7’s, under 8’s and under 9’s teams and then at half - time we’re trying to include our under 10’s with a small game on the pitch.  

 There’s going to be a keepy up’s competition at half-time and we’ve got some inflatables and bouncy castles which will go on after the game. we’re going to make sure there’s refreshments and a BBQ. It should be quite a fun day.” Sherwood FC may not be the biggest football club in the UK but, according to Simon, that hasn’t prevented those in Malawi from being proud of their association with Sherwood.    

 “Ben has given me the impression that they love being associated with a club in England. Why? Well just like we have in the UK, the kids in Malawi have also been sold the Premier League!”

Tickets for the match are available to buy here. 

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