Alumni engagement and philanthropy

QUEEN’S AFC SUPPORTS YOUNG FOOTBALLERS IN GHANAThree men pictured in cloisters in quad at Queen's

11 October 2021

Queen’s University Association Football Club (QUB AFC) has announced its support for the Botchway Abladey Hughes Football Academy (BAHFA), a soccer academy in Ghana, co-founded by Queen’s graduate, Dr Anthony Abladey (Medicine 2016).   

The Club recently made a gift to the project of £1,000 and is encouraging anyone interested in soccer, to consider helping. In the past, QUB AFC donated kits from previous seasons to help the initiative get established and has a strong relationship with the Academy thanks to the involvement of Dr Abladey.

A gifted footballer, Anthony joined the Club when he came to Queen’s in 2012, having studied at the University of Sunderland. He made several appearances with the first eleven and played in the Collingwood and Crowley Cups, also serving as Club President in the final 2 years of his studies.

Interest in football was high in Ghana at the time with the national team taking part in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the national team coming in as runners-up in the Africa Cup of Nations in 2015. Many will remember the great Tony Yeboah who was a massive success at Leeds United and more recently Michael Essien who played for Chelsea. With many young players in Ghana aspiring to the success of the national team and their sporting heroes, Anthony felt the time was right to start a Football Academy in Kpone, a small town situated on the southern coast, near the capital Accra.

Speaking about the state of football in Ghana at the time Anthony said:

“I knew, from growing up in the country, that there simply was not the same level of resources available for football in Ghana as there is in Northern Ireland.”

In a country where the average wage is £80 per month, this was stating the case rather mildly. With the help of brother, Joshua Tetteh Abladey, his uncle, Simon Narteh Botchway and his Newcastle University friend, Kristopher Hughes, they established the Botchway Abladey Hughes Football Academy (BAHFA).

This, however, is no ordinary football academy. Its mission is to provide an opportunity for gifted, talented, underprivileged boys to excel, both in sport and academically. In return for football coaching and skills development the boys commit to a full attendance record in school and to take part in the extra tuition that the Academy offer, two days per week.

Anthony explains: “At the time when we set up the Academy, there was no universal access to free education. This was only introduced in Ghana last year. To encourage the academic progression of the boys, we maintain links with their schools and will discuss their performance and attendance record with teachers.

“Football is a great sport but the opportunity to play professional is rare, in any country. So, although our boys are very talented, and would like to play as professional or semi-professional footballers, they need to have the qualifications to pursue other careers or to go on to higher education.”

It is not surprising that the Botchway Abladey Hughes Football Academy pursues this philosophy given that it is the same approach taken by the Queen’s Football Academy, which Anthony was a part of during his time at Queen’s – to support talented individuals to excel in their chosen sport whilst also excelling in their academic careers.

BAHFA shares the same ‘better players, better people’ philosophy of Queen’s Academy and this spirit is set out in the mission statement of the Ghanaian Academy:

“To create a positive and engaging learning atmosphere grounded on honest hard-working values where all players will be challenged to understand the game, make excellent choices on and off the field, and be the best version of themselves with a love of the game, an appetite for improvement and a winning mentality to produce players who can make the transition into professional football in Ghana and beyond.”

Just like Queen’s Football Academy, BAHFA supports players in several ways. They are given football coaching and opportunities for trials both in Ghana and further afield, if the player shows exceptional talent. The Academy helps with training equipment and kit. Nurses come regularly to check on the health of the boys and they get regular advice and tuition on subjects like hygiene, nutrition and strength and conditioning. They also get academic support to ensure they maintain their educational progress, a philosophy Anthony first encountered during his time at Queen’s.

“The desire to set this project up came from the heart, but the real inspiration came from my experience in the Queens’ Soccer Academy.

“To see student athletes like myself wholly encouraged and given the best possible opportunities to excel academically whilst training and competing at elite level was a breath of fresh air, especially coming from a society in Ghana where this is rarely supported.”

From humble beginnings and an initial group of 25 boys, BAHFA now has 60 players competing at under 11, 13, 15 and 17 age groups. The teams recently gained registration with the Ghana FA and now compete in recognised leagues. Whilst this is a great achievement, unfortunately they do not have a pitch of a required standard and must make the journey to neighbouring cities to play their matches. The Academy also has a group of 20 girls who are eager to join, and this planned to be one of the next developments they undertake.

Having played football himself, Anthony knows that very few players make it right to the top of the sport so support and guidance for the players is hugely important.

“Primarily, our aim is to encourage young boys to be young boys, to play, to create friendships, to learn life skills, learn how to be successful and how to deal with rejection. Not to be misled and sold false dreams.

“Our hope is that at whatever stage a player leaves the Academy, they will have found the experience valuable to their development as people, as well as players.”

Anthony added: “Thanks to the unwavering support of Queens’ Football Academy, our hard work is already bearing life-changing fruit. As we speak, one of boys is awaiting a visa to enable travel to the Northeast of England to take up a full-time scholarship with Morpeth Town AFC U19 Academy, an arrangement that will see him studying for a Diploma in Plumbing.”

Speaking about the donation to BAHFA, and the significant difference it will make to the sustainability of the project, Queen’s Soccer Development Officer, Ruairi Taylor, said:

“As little as £5 per month covers the cost of transport to enable a player from a neighbouring township to attend training. £60 provides a boy with a tracksuit, training and match day kits. These relatively small amounts of money can make such a difference and we are delighted to have been given the opportunity to get involved with such a worthwhile project.

“I am pleased that involvement in the QUB Football Academy has made such a profound impression on Anto, as he is known in the Club. Care for others and a determination to make a difference are two of the traits that have been nurtured alongside his football skills.”

Visit to support the Botchway Abladey Hughes Football Academy; find out more about BAHFA on Facebook and Instagram

If you would like to support the next generation of sport at Queen’s through one of our five Sporting Academies – including Soccer – visit the Queen’s Foundation website or contact Paddy Gilmore, Queen’s Development and Engagement Manager, Queen’s Sport.

For general enquiries or to submit graduate news stories, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO).

Main image caption (L-R): Paddy Gilmore pictured with Dr Anthony Abladey and Ruairi Taylor.

Picture credit (headline): Image by Reimund Bertrams from Pixabay 

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