Premier League pitch operation gives hope to young players

  • Author: Catherine Evans & PA Media
  • bbc news

Image Source, Salem Brandon/Pennsylvania

illustrate, Max Keanes (left), 31, aims to run to every Premier League football ground in England to raise money for football stadiums in African countries

A charity founder plans to visit every Premier League stadium in England to raise money for young footballers in Africa.

Max Keens, 31, from north London, walks 20 miles (32 kilometers) every day to every stadium from Newcastle to Brighton.

Mr Keens, a television producer, co-founded Project Africa, which builds football pitches for children on the continent, after a volunteering trip.

Three have been built in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.

Mr Keane’s challenge route will start at St James’ Park Stadium on June 1 and run through Burnley, Luton, Bournemouth and Brighton before arriving at the London Stadium in Stratford.

He said each football pitch cost around £4,000 to £5,000 to build, adding that the charity’s aim was to help with the future prospects of these young footballers.

“Our goal is to build as many pitches as possible for communities and charities in Africa that use football for education and for the kids there who are mainly passionate about football,” he said.

“If a kid plays football there for a few years and then becomes a teacher through the coaching, that’s the goal.

Image Source, David Moore/PA

illustrate, Max Keens says football coach will also teach young people life skills

“Although they will have a football team there, they are about much more than that, they are for kids who can’t afford to go to school, so they will come to practice, but the coaches will teach them things, from HIV awareness to Tie your shoes.”

He added: “We spoke to a lot of different coaches, a lot of different charities and NGOs [non-governmental organisations] Across Africa, we understand their goals and dreams for their communities, and whether our work is sustainable.

Mr Keanes said the idea behind the charity came about after he went on a volunteer trip to Africa, teaching children English and coaching them in the sport.

There he met Leendert Coene and Andreas Schobersberger, two trustees of the charity Project Africa.

“We train the kids in a very gravel parking lot with a concrete football field. The kids don’t care, they slide tackle and stuff like that,” he said.

“I’ve kind of given up on the idea of ​​building sustainable grass pitches in Africa where kids can not only improve their football abilities but also enjoy the sport without getting injured.”

Image Source, David Moore/PA

illustrate, Max Keens’ charity Project Africa is nearing completion of football stadiums in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya and hopes to build two more

With a month to go until the start of the challenge, he said: “I wanted to do something more adventurous and unique to us.”

Keanes said he was “not nervous” about the challenge because he “didn’t fully understand the gravity of it.”

“I’ve been playing football my whole life, but I’ve never been a runner and never had the physical attributes of a runner,” he said.

“There’s no way on this earth that I could limp through it unless I broke my leg or something serious happened.

“Even if it takes me eight hours a day to get to the checkpoint, I’m going to do it.”

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