Good morning, and Happy Father’s Day to my Dad, God bless him, who I miss so much.
I’m sat here at Gaborone airport watching two blokes in bobble hats and lime/yellow bibs cleaning a propellered aeroplane with some old cloths. I’ve been lucky enough to fly on a lot of the aeroplanes around the world but I’m sat here drinking this Cappuccino, questioning my sanity, and absolutely bricking it with the thought of getting on this little plane for half an hour, to journey into the jungle and try and see some animals.
At home this morning, I’m sure many young people will be cleaning their Dads’ cars just like these two fellas are cleaning this aeroplane. The last time I saw a plane this small it was inside a Christmas cracker.
The past week has been awesome. A half hour drive every morning down a road with baboons sitting on the hard shoulder, ducking in an out the traffic into the middle of nowhere and a little village football pitch, no grass, just that orangy-brown shaley shingle with a few stones and rocks, and 22 volunteers who coach and train in the local surrounding villages, for me to train, look after and help develop their coaching skills.
You may think that the people are poor as most of them have no shoes or football boots and turned up each day in the same clothes or training kit. But they are immensely wealthy. They possess smiles on their faces from when they arrive at 9.30am right through to when training ends at 4pm. Their positive energy, enthusiasm, respect for each other and their willingness to learn, take on board information and share, brings joy to me to be around them.
They have no money, very few have jobs but they are at peace with themselves and very, very happy with what they’ve got. When I gave out my sister’s teenage sons’ football boots, trainers, school shirts and my training kit they clapped, hugged each other and all of them together sang and danced for me to show their appreciation.
Yesterday afternoon, as we set off back to our hotel we watched as the coaches set off on their long journeys by walking or by the shuttle minibuses that come along every couple of hours. It’s very sad really but these people are so, so happy.
At the start of the week the coaches and I agreed that the work we did would be for the future generations of children in Botswana. Sport is very low down on the list of priorities here and everything is focused on education to try and improve their welfare. Yesterday morning as one of the ladies had her 15 minute coaching ‘test’, four little children were playing on the side of the pitch. None of them had shoes on; one of them had a bike. The bike had no front tyre and no brakes. It meant so much to me, 20 minutes later when the four little children were copying the exercises we had been doing on the training pitch – it made my whole trip worthwhile.
Last night, after a tiring week, I crashed into bed early to watch Rory McIlroy playing golf at the US Open. At one of the breaks on the TV coverage, there was a report from McIlroy’s trip to Haiti as an ambassador for UNICEF. Now there ain’t no-one that old MadDog is ever gonna be an ambassador for, but when the TV guy explained that the trip had put life into perspective for a young Irishman after some testing times in big competitions, and that he sees life differently now, well I know exactly how he feels.
I got back to the hotel the other night for dinner and was taken in by the waiter’s offer of a cut-price deal for the ‘Botswanan Buffet’. How fantastic! The geezer didn’t tell me about the worms. The geezer didn’t tell me about the intestines. Of course, the large maggot-like worm went down in one go and the intestines slid down with a grin, much to the amusement of the others at the table.
Also, in the same hotel, our waiter for breakfast everyday had one of those gold name tags pinned to his white shirt. He was immaculate – six foot three, perfect white teeth, beautiful complexion, chiseled cheekbones – a real charming, good looking chap. The name on his nametag was… ‘Big Boy’. You can imagine the banter at breakfast every morning!
Lastly there was a great guy on the course whose name was Dimpo, he works for Coaching For Hope, the charity that I’m out here with. One afternoon we were sat down for a chat with Dimpo and he told me he was a coach for the U17’s of the next village along, just ten minutes away. The name of his team was ‘Bollux FC’. I laughed and laughed and laughed. I took a trip out there and there it was on the front gate ‘