Welcome to Diary of a Muzungu! This week’s guest post is by Irish football coach Karol Gallagher, who I first met at the Kabaka’s Birthday Hash Run at Bulange in 2013. Since then I have watched with interest as Karol has followed his passion to develop young players’ confidence through playing football. Hats off to you Karol for On The Ball – what a brilliant project! I know how much you’ve put into this.
Karol (pronounced Karl) Gallagher is a football youth coach, certified by the Irish Football Association and is Director of On The Ball Limited, a non-profit organisation incorporated in Uganda. On The Ball’s objectives are to equip coaches, inspire kids and assist in the development of sports (football). (The Muzungu: How cool is that?)
In 2009, I launched a grassroots community football initiative in Uganda, titled On The Ball (OTB). The objective of On The Ball is to serve as a peace-building integration project, promoting social change and community cohesion by bringing together typically segregated ethnic groups through the positive experience of a sporting team tournament. The project grew rapidly, and On The Ball received a Social Entrepreneurship Award from UnLtd, an English-based organisation that provides funding for individuals seeking to develop projects that benefit their community. On The Ball has also received the RESPECT Campaign endorsement from UEFA and is compliant with the Irish Football Association’s Football For All mandate.
Things really kicked off in December 2012 when I travelled to Uganda to visit family. After two weeks I had met with local coaches and formed a team. A week later, we organised a one day youth tournament, bringing 240 orphans/street kids from five neighbouring deprived / slum areas. The success of the event, and its positive impact, made me realise there was more work to be done.
In January 2013 OTB organised another successful gala football competition event in Mulago community, bringing together over 500 youths from neighbouring disadvantaged areas of Kampala.
Thanks to grant funding from Irish Aid, On The Ball is growing, making a social impact within deprived areas of Kampala.
Since living in Uganda I have formed new friendships, set up a team of coaches, supported orphanages, coached kids, organised gala events and football workshops, created links with teams to Ireland, presented gifts – the list goes on.
Spending a lot of time on the ground with the people of Uganda and the On The Ball team, I gathered a lot of evidence and identified where the needs are. We see how organised, well-managed sporting activities can be a positive step forward in pathway to employment, education and empowerment of youths. Sport can be used as a vehicle to sustain peace and lower crime, through healthy competition and educational achievement.
At On The Ball – inspiring Ugandan kids through football, we believe that:
- – the link between community development and social development is activated through the engagement of sports.
- – academic performance is improved through sporting activity.
- – an active student environment enhances learning ability.
- – the benefits of an integrated sports programme within schools and community, linked to existing clubs.
- – fostering good working relationships within educational environments that are academically strong but lack in the area of physical health and wellness.
On The Ball Uganda supports the existing development structures and framework within Uganda but can also identify areas that are lacking and will act as a link between community development and social development. Having gained support from Irish Aid, Uganda Olympic Federation and the Irish Football Association, On The Ball will continue to build its partner database at a district, regional, national and international level.
It has been an honour to share with you a summary of my work and my journey, and I warmly welcome your reply. Karol Gallagher.
For anyone wishing to donate to On The Ball please click here.
The Muzungu: thanks Karol for sharing your story. Your project rocks! I wish you all the success in the future. You can connect with Karol on the On The Ball Facebook page