Paul Clarke (TGFG founder) is one of those very rare types that has a great deal of knowledge, intelligence and experience which he keeps close to his chest while managing to maintain an almost innocent, child like view on the world especially when it comes to tackling the most difficult issues in the most hard-core countries.
Though from time to time this has driven me totally bonkers, man he's taught me so much. Sometimes I feel like he is offering an opportunity for people to not only see these amazing countries and meet so many beautiful people but it's an opportunity to see themselves for the first time and therefore BE themselves for the first time.
I remember getting on the plane to go to Malawi, the first trip, thinking "what the F@$* am I doing?" As the plane did its final approach over jungle and scrubland I couldn't see any hint of a Nation keen on football. I really did think the idea would struggle to work.
There on the side of the road were a few kids playing a makeshift game of football with what would become a very common sight, the plastic-bag-wrapped, homemade football. Paul handed me a brand new blingtastic Mitre football and said "you know what to do". I jumped out and booted the ball to the kids who went absolutely bonkers. Laughing, screaming, jumping up and down, ha ha ha "Thankyou" they shouted. "Ok" I said," I get it".
Since then I've been to Angola, Rwanda and DRC with The Great Football Giveaway, helping making a film about the charity's work and it was whilst going over some of the footage of the kids in the Orphanage in Congo that I realised I still don't get it, but then that's ok. Let's get one thing clear. Without a shadow of doubt, in my experience, the pure joy that I have seen in a kid's expression on receiving a ball from TGFG says it all. It is a thing of beauty to see the playful life come surging back to kids that have been just flattened by circumstance. There has to be a pure stream of positivity for these children whether for a moment, a day or for the rest of their lives from something so simple.
What I don't get is why I asked myself on that plane to Malawi "what the F... am I doing?"
I cant wait to do another project and I have told virtually everyone I meet about TGFG.