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Sunday, October 23, 2016
Football legend Weah meets Rooney on African pitch
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¬†Legendary footballer George Weah and rising star Wayne Rooney came face to face for the first time last week on a waste ground pitch in Africa. Weah, former world footballer of the year, made a guest star appearance at a youth football tournament held in Weah's home country Liberia. Watched by a crowd of up to 1,000 people, Weah kicked off the match between a team of budding young football stars sporting Rooney T-shirts and another showing off their new Liverpool strips. Everton Football Club recently donated the shirts, together with £66,000 worth of unwanted Rooney merchandise, to the Catholic aid agency CAFOD, following the wonderkids transfer to Manchester United. Liverpool and Burnley football clubs also gave a full squad set of kits to CAFOD in support of their work with former child soldiers. Weah, who rose out of poverty to international stardom through his talent, said: "I heard people in the UK had given a gift to the kids and I wanted to come here to let them know it's highly appreciated. Soccer is a unifying force and it's important the kids feel they are being supported in their efforts to improve their lives." The game's importance to people in the poverty stricken country is evident by the sheer number of football pitches dotted around the city. The pitches are mostly uneven and littered with stones and broken glass but they are rarely out of use. The problem is equipment. Lack of footballs, boots, nets and kits are a big hindrance to teams. The donation of strips from the top UK clubs, as well as the amateur youth team Readstone in Burnley, is vital to help CAFOD's partners Don Bosco Homes maintain their work with former child soldiers. Alan Lincoln, director of CAFOD's partner organisation Don Bosco Homes, said at the tournament: "Look at them. These children have the kudos of a team of talented young players, not the stigma of a gang of former child soldiers. Football helps break down these barriers and labels and helps them become accepted in the community. The UK shirts have clearly helped boost their pride, in themselves and as a team. They know people are thinking about them." Football plays a central role in the rehabilitation of war-affected children. The game helps to alleviate depression and teaches valuable team skills. The sport also allows them to have fun and regain some of the childhood that was so brutally taken away from them. Once the children are reunited with their families the sport keeps them busy, earns them the respect of the community and gives them something to look forward to in a country where few opportunities exist. It was difficult to believe the children out on the field had once witnessed or committed horrific atrocities during the 14-year civil conflict in Liberia, which ended last year. They were simply children playing exciting and skilful football. The strips were delivered in time for the tournament by Burnley football scout Fred Uttley and Liverpool schoolteacher Andrew Holt. Both men helped to raise money for the CAFOD Emergency Appeal for Liberia and organised a collection of football strips to be sent out to the youngsters following the end of the 14-year civil war last August.
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