Kelsey Moore, PSNI’s new Director for Program Development, led a 3-day training program for 35 of Play Soccer Ghana’s volunteer instructors – young men and women between the ages of 16-30 – who came from Play Soccer sites all over the country to share best practices for teaching the basic health, social and soccer skills that drive the “Play for Fun, Learn for Life” curriculum, and to seek solutions to challenges like encouraging greater female participation. Moore, who prior to joining the PSNI team worked in Western Kenya as director of the Kisumu Youth Football Association, has extensive experience working with grassroots soccer teams and training for vulnerable children and youth. “I found the Ghanaian youth instructors to be an exceptionally committed group,” Moore noted. “I think it’s because so many of them have come up through the ranks of Play Soccer Ghana, first as kids and now as youth instructors. They want to give back to their communities now that they’ve seen the benefits of the program firsthand.” PSNI’s 3-day training session, which was held at the Center, was designed by Moore to be “the pilot for a new master ‘Play for Fun, Learn for Life’ training program for volunteer youth instructors that we are developing and plan to implement across the entire PSNI seven-country network.” Moore, who just finished a Masters degree from George Mason University in International Sport Management, has also previously worked with PSNI partner Coaches Across Continents. Play Soccer Ghana, now entering its 12th year, is PSNI’s first and oldest continuous country program, and has the distinction of having been chosen by FIFA’s Football for Hope (FFH) World Cup Legacy to manage the FFH Center in Cape Coast, a state-of-the-art community soccer facility. “You can’t help but notice how much respect Play Soccer Ghana has for the Center both as a facility and as a structure,” Moore remarked. “From the littlest kids to the youth instructors, they know how lucky they are to have it, and they want to maintain it and make it last.”
Play Soccer Ghana’s new program director, Abdul Wahab Musah, may say he is “a regular story” in his community, but he is a rare find for PSNI. A former professional football player recruited young from one of the country’s most deprived regions, Musah credits “hard work, determination, patience and faith” as the forces that enabled him to climb back on the educational ladder and travel to South Africa, Denmark and Sweden, where he earned master’s degrees in development, international relations and social change. At age 40, Musah, whose impressive CV includes leading projects for Ghana’s Center for Democratic Development and the USAID, could have continued at the policy level. But Musah says he saw “Play Soccer Ghana as an opportunity for me to contribute my quota to national development through our communities.” Musah’s belief in football as a vehicle for youth empowerment is strongly rooted in his own life story and experience of sport - both its transformative power and the potential dead-end lure of professional sport: “I came from a very deprived area in Ghana, so deprived that a derogatory term ‘Zongo’ is used to refer to people who came from the community I grew up in. As a talented football player, typical of the ‘Zongo’ youth, I too fell off the educational path to purse a football career.” Years later, Musah now sees the soccer pitch as the ideal life classroom for underserved children and youth: “The Play Soccer PLAY FOR FUN, LEARN FOR LIFE program is a wonderful and perfect platform for positive youth development – I am so excited to be director of this program and I say Hurray to all the staff, volunteers, and the children who are making the program in Ghana grow.” Musah, who has led PS Ghana’s 2013 expansion to nine sites in Ghana, including two in the Northern Region, says that “the vision is to have a Play Soccer program in every region of the country.” In addition to serving Play Soccer Ghana’s 1,000 registered children and youth, Musah is also responsible for managing the new Oguaa Football For Hope Centre in Cape Coast, a mini-stadium and multi-stakeholder project that is funded by the FIFA World Cup 2010 Legacy. Musah has led Play Soccer Ghana’s development of the Oguaa Centre’s sport-led activities, notably a social intervention Street League program for older youth/youth adults and a Community Learning Center that offers after-school educational support and computer access. Musah is also developing a partnership between Play Soccer Ghana and the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Cape Coast.
Children Listen to one of the instructors at PLAY SOCCER Zambia
Funny faces: children and volunteers of PLAY SOCCER Los Angeles