The young people of Malawi now have another English football team to follow. No, not one of the southern powerhouses like Chelsea, Tottenham or Arsenal. But one from a Hampshire village.
By Ken Gaunt
Hartley Wintney, who ply their trade in the eighth tier, the Southern League East division, have a new group of supporters thanks to joint-manager Daniel Brownlie. Along with Little Kickers colleague Jenn Phillbrook, he went out to Zomba in Malawi with the pre-school football academy to link up with the charity Sparkle Malawi, a school for vulnerable children.
During their two-week stay they led the teachers on an intensive training course that qualified their existing teachers as Little Kickers coaches. Now fully trained, the teachers have been coaching their 200-plus students with great success.
Brownlie also took the opportunity to hand over a bunch of Hartley Wintney kits to the children and was thrilled with their response.
He said: “It’s genuinely one of the happiest places I’ve ever been. The security of those walls at Sparkle create the perfect atmosphere for children to develop, create and have fun.
“Sadly, what goes on beyond those walls will melt the hardest of hearts. We’re so happy that our classes are making a difference to the lives of children here, but there is so much more that needs to be done.”
Headteacher Lonjezo Buta praised Brownlie and Phillbrook for the way they embraced the pupils. “We’ve loved having them here and so have the children.” she said.
“The children have enjoyed every moment; we can already see the benefits to our education system as the sessions complement what we are doing in the classroom. We’re looking forward to the continuation of the partnership and also the development of our own teachers in leading these sessions.”
With a network of 1,750 coaches and 300 franchises in 30 countries, Little Kickers is the world’s biggest and most successful pre-school football academy. Founded in the UK in 2002 by Christine Stanschus, Little Kickers’
brand is focused around “fun first”, working with experts in child development as well as FA-qualified football coaches.