Fairford and Lechlade YFC Coach and Club development office Tony ‘Spike’ Warrington is heading to Africa on a mission to kick-start the sport in Sierra Leone
The 54-year-old FA Level 2-licenced coach is perfectly accustomed to putting youngsters through their paces in and around his home town, with Fairford Youth, where he is also child welfare and club development officer, as well as overseeing Cirencester Town under-11s’ Junior Premier League activities.
Tony will bid farewell to all that, and wife Nikki and children Caitlin, 13, and Joe, 10, for a fortnight in order to take his coaching skills and know-how to a poverty-stricken corner of the world.
He explained: “It’s a voluntary mission. A good friend of mine and his wife set up a clinic attached to a village school in the very small town of Madina, located near the border of Guinea, to provide frontline health care.
“Sierra Leone is the second poorest country in the world and Madina is situated in the poorest area of the country.
“One in five children die before the age of five and one in eight women die during childbirth and my friends, who are both doctors, spend a large amount of time and money doing what they can to improve such stats.”
Tony, who is production director of E Sports Publications which produces handbooks for county FAs, the GFA included, still enjoys a regular kick-about himself at Fairford Sports Centre with fellow seniors.
He said: “My veterans football buddy Rohit Sethi, a GP in Cirencester, has been on to me for a while about going over to Sierra Leone as the children have one thing that takes their minds off the daily slog of just surviving, and that is football. Another of my football friends, Pascal Tertois, is coming too.
“Outside of school, the majority of the children’s time in daylight hours is spent playing football and there is a very loose football league amongst the neighbouring villages. My aim is to put some structure into what they have and in particular look at the coaching side of things.
“There is a Catholic mission in the village and the brothers have already set things up so that I will coach the coaches of the area. The plan is to end up with a youth tournament where I hope to hand out awards and gifts to every village that takes part.
“I am told the teams can consist of players from 10 to 18 years old which should be interesting and I guess they have no playing time constrictions either.
“I will also be digging wells and I have set up a link with my local (Fairford) primary school who will be sending letters and gifts, as well as learning all about the mission and why it is so important.
“Pappillon Media (commercial division of E Sports Publications) is going to sponsor magnetic tactics boards, cones and bibs for all 20 coaches who will be involved partaking in classroom and practical sessions.”
Tony’s hands will certainly be full as he flies out to West Africa laden with kit and other all-important equipment in order to give local children and their mentors the best possible footballing experience.
And he wants, in months and years to come, to acquire help from the Gloucestershire area’s professional and grassroots set-ups with a view to ensuring there is never a shortage of vital essentials to transport for future expeditions.
“I’m trying to get a scheme going which involves old kit and equipment belonging to clubs and individuals being stockpiled and sent to Africa via ourselves,” Tony revealed.
“We’ve already received plenty of donations for this trip, including some from Cheltenham Town and Fairford Town, and the Hampshire FA has supplied a load of kit.
“This mission has been on my bucket list and I’m hoping it will be just the start. I would love to leave each village with a team kit, even just a set of shirts.
“It’s an opportunity to spread the message that while lifestyles can be so different, one thing that can bond people throughout the world is football.”