Diamonds “Branching Out” in Bansang

Diamonds fundraising co-ordinator Glenis Haynes reports on how AFC Rushden & Diamonds is getting exposure further afield in the following article.

A very dear friend of mine runs a Charity called the Bansang Hospital Appeal. I have been connected with this Charity for a number of years but in 2009 she brought 2 young men to England to have prosthetic legs fitted. Both of these young men were ostracized in the Gambia for being disabled. One of them Demba, who had represented his country in athletics, was struck down with elephantiasis (which is a condition where limbs etc are grossly enlarged from parasite bites), the other Cherno, had fallen out of a Mango tree trying to get food for his family.

These two young men were so amazing and I asked them if they liked football. After quite a long conversation and convincing them that there is more than 1 football team in England (they had only heard of Manchester United!!!) I asked if they would like to come to watch my team play to which they replied ‘oh yes please’.

So I took them to Nene Park, gave them hospitality, took them to meet Justin Edinburgh and the team before kick off and they also went ‘on air’ at Radio Diamonds. They said they would never ever forget the kindness of all those connected with Rushden and Diamonds and they are always asking me about Curtis Osano, who had made them feel so welcome in the dressing room.

When they returned to the Gambia they changed the name of their local football team to AFC Rushden and Diamonds Bansang Branch. Both have now been employed at the Hospital, Demba as a Records Officer and Cherno as an Interpreter.

In 2010 I travelled with my friend to the Gambia for the first time. After leaving the luxury of the beautiful hotel and beach on the coast I then travelled 250 miles up country in the bush to Bansang and to the hospital which she has supported for over 22 years.

I could not believe what I was seeing and it has had such a dramatic effect on my life. I could go on to say so much about this wonderful place and the hospital staff but my point of this article is to let you know about our Gambian Football teams.

On my trip last August I was lucky enough to watch one of them play. The football ground is something else with hardly any grass, just mainly dust and during the day we had had horrendous electrical storms with torrential rain. However at 5 o’clock when the game was due to be played, the sun had come out, temperature was around 50 degrees C and there was a huge flood in the goalmouth!!!. The rest of the pitch was fairly dry and so the game commenced. This was top of the table playing second. Wow what a game. Fantastic ground play, great movement of the ball, and so many skilful players. They are very passionate about football and I was so pleased to be able to watch them as on previous visits I have always managed to go when they have not had a home game. There were around 300 watching with my friend and myself being the only ladies!!!! Unfortunately my friend supports the other shape of ball game so I was having to explain it to her. This game finished with AFC R&D Bansang Branch winning 3-0. As you can imagine huge celebrations took place and to watch them when they score is amazing.

I had taken a flag over for them which had been specially produced, together with a special football which has a light in it, both of which Darren Bolland had very kindly donated to them.

 The picture shows the team and myself together with both the flag and the ball.

In November I received the wonderful news that the team had again become the season’s League Champions. This is 3 years in a row and the photo shows Musa Kanuteh (the Team Captain) being presented with the Trophy by Chief Alhagie Touray ( who is the Chief of the Upper Fulladu District).





The other photo shows the whole Team together with the Manager, Coach and Physio.

I cannot express my gratitude enough to the Board, Andy, Paul, Biff and the players for all that they have given to the Teams. They now each have football boots, they also had old strips from Nene Park, and there is some more kit due to go over in the next container (unfortunately it did not go over in the last one due to lack of space, as the hospital was desperately short of supplies and these of course are the priority), but they never seem to have enough to go round’.

If any of you have any football kit or boots that you are discarding and they are not too badly worn and would like to donate them, I would be so happy to receive them on their behalf.

So as you can see, the Gambian football teams are keeping the winning feeling alive, and I am just so proud and honoured to be a small part of the set up over there.

The Gambian people are such a warm friendly race, always smiling, and yet they have absolutely nothing.

I hope I have given you just a small insight into our ‘twinning’ in the Gambia. I am hoping to return again in the summer.

Long live AFC Rushden and Diamonds both in UK and The Gambia.

 Glenis Haynes