Age Holds No Barriers
Over the last three days we have I believe all learnt several very important lessons and one of them was very humbling indeed.
The first and the most humbling one is what we have learnt about Craig Bellamy in the last couple of days. Craig as we all know has a bit of a reputation on and off the football pitch. A reputation that time after time has got him into unnecessary trouble. But like everything else, sometimes it takes these things to happen in your life before you are either faced with or run into something that will trigger a change for the better.
Craig was going through a period in his life where he was between football clubs and a friend suggested that he visit him in a village called Kono in Sierra Leone. Craig did this and was shocked to see the poverty and the suffering that was in front of him.
Here was a country that had been pulled through a ten year war which had left it with an economy that could not provide the basic things that you and I take for granted. Those things of course are housing, water and employment as well as education for your children.
Craig, who as a child, had parents that ensured his ambition to become a footballer was fulfilled. He also had a loving and comfortable home, a home that he himself, now provides for his wife and children and when he began to compare the two, he decided that he would like to do something to help the young of Kono.
Football is a sport that is worshipped, for want of a better word, the world over and this includes those countries that are devoid of the facilities that we have, if the boys can find something to kick that is the game they play.
So, here we have a premiership footballer and boys that would certainly benefit from an education and some proper football coaching. Craig put the two together and the result was that he decided to build and start his own football academy in Kono, Sierra Leone.
He has built an academy for 16 young men, who live in and who are being given a general education and taught to play football. This is proving to be a success and he has also helped set up a football league, which has quite aptly been called The Craig Bellamy League.
It has become so successful that UNICEF has joined forces with him and they have begun to set things in motion so that a girls and amputees league can also be set up. Craig now realises that he cannot do this on his own and is looking for sponsors to ensure that the project continues for many years.
To see the full extent of what he has done, if you have not already watched it, please go to the link below and what I will say, to the ladies in particular is have a tissue handy because the last ten minutes could see you in floods of tears. Watching those young men, play football whilst holding a crutch and running on one leg is heart breaking and yet amazing at the same time.
Craig also gave an interview to Oliver Holt of the Mirror, which is a must read as it ties in with the programme.
Craig as we know was also a great friend of Gary Speed and is still mourning his death. Now as we all know Gary took his own life because something was troubling him, something that perhaps he felt he could not talk to anyone about. His grief and respect for his friend led him to bottle things up and he was urged to sort the help of Steve Peters who is a Psychologist and it has helped him realise a lot of things about himself. One of those things was to appreciate what football could do for him rather than about winning cups all the time. The result of which, we are of course seeing at the moment.
Which also brings me to why I chose the title, I did for my blog. You see Craig is 32 years old but runs around the pitch as though he is 23 and has so much enthusiasm for the game.
Enthusiasm, that has resulted in 6 goals for the club since his return on a free transfer during the summer of 2010.
Last night was the night that ensured the sixth hit the back of the net. Craig was in the team that played Mick McCarthy's Wolverhampton and every one wondered if the team could continue on the rum they had set up by going into the Carling Cup Final and beating Manchester United in the FA Cup.
They did and on a very cold evening in the Moulineux the team gave us the supporters the kind of display that proved Liverpool are indeed on their way back. It was enthralling to watch and Craig although booked for being a little over zealous, made some wonderful runs before outwitting several Wolves players and sending yet another wonderful strike into the goal. There were also goals from Dirk and Andy - two players who themselves have been struggling so perhaps, whatever magic Steve Peters has worked on Craig is beginning to be spread around.
Craig in my mind was man of the match, for the simple reason he never stops working and you can see his pride in wearing and working for the badge on his chest.
So to the lesson's I believe we learnt.
Craig is not the out of control Footballer a lot of people thought he was. He is a young man, with a very caring heart. A heart that has led him to help people that are no as privileged as he is.
He cares very deeply about his career and will do everything he can to ensure that he gives the best he can.
That age and circumstances are not barriers. If you have the strength and the energy to go out and do something, do it because in the end you yourself will benefit.