The universal language of football is making a difference in underprivileged communities in Australia and overseas.
Pride of Australia nominee David Oswell, a former Scots College teacher, founded not-for-profit Their Beautiful Game in 2009.
Mr Oswell, from Cremorne, who is also a soccer coach, was inspired to start the charity after embarking on volunteer work in Ghana.
“A few friends suggested I take some football equipment (to Ghana) … and we arranged a collection. We were inundated with stuff! In Ghana, the poverty and lack of resources is confronting, so, I decided on my return to keep the project going,” he said.
In Ghana, Mr Oswell met local teacher Billa Mahmud who had set up a school for homeless street children in Labadi, Ghana in 1997.
“The school began under a Mango tree as it was the best place to provide shade from the sun,” said Mr Oswell.
“Despite living in poverty himself, Billa made sure the kids had at least one meal each day so they didn’t have to search for food”.
As part of the curriculum, Mr Mahmud used football as tool to help kids develop teamwork, discipline and leadership.
“The kids were allowed to play in the football program, but only if all their school work was finished first. As word of the school began to spread, more children wanted to attend and play football, so Billa found bigger premises, which was of course, a bigger Mango tree”.
The school has put hundreds of Labadi children through school, university and vocational training programs.
And it inspired Their Beautiful Game, which now works in 16 countries with footballers of all ages, genders and abilities throughout Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
The charity also helps indigenous, refugee and homeless groups in Australia.
It has donated as many as 3000 pairs of boots, 500 footballs, 50 team strips, countless shin pads, goalkeeper gloves and other training gear to the student players.
Mr Oswell recently left his job at Scots to pursue the charity’s work full-time.
Credit: The Daily Telegraph