Sport

GOL Charity Games hit the mark

Inner-city foundation using football to raise hopes, money for primary schools

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Deputy Sport Editor

Friday, January 11, 2019

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There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up — John Holmes, American poet and critic

A cornerstone of any modern, well-developed society seems to be great acts of charity — which by nature is the selfless giving of one's self, time and resources with no intent or desire of a return.

So in a country like ours where often times taking more than giving can be a dark feature, and a counterpoint to good social behaviour and responsibility, a strong culture of charity is desperately needed in any attempt at social re-engineering and overall growth and prosperity.

In a Jamaica of decaying social values, where crime and violence is the main scourge, there is hope in the widespread barbarity that there lives the spirit of those determined to look after the less fortunate.

One such grouping, bound by a sense of duty and social responsibility, is the inner-city-based Game of Life Foundation (GOL).

Its purpose and mission is to help to further empower needy primary school students through football by boosting their sporting and academic programmes.

Through an annual fundraising event, aptly dubbed the GOL Charity Games, plus support from international affiliate Football For The World Foundation, a sprinkling of corporate partners and private donations, gifts of football gear and equipment and cash are contributed to beneficiary schools.

The GOL Charity Games will have its third staging at The UWI Mona Bowl tomorrow, with football matches set to start at 10:00 am, interspersed with an entertainment package. Adults are asked to contribute $1,000, while children will pay $500.

There will be match-ups involving primary school age kids, women, local-based players, current Reggae Boyz and Girlz, overseas invitees, veterans and masters of the game.

In a few words, the event is a fully family-oriented football and entertainment extravaganza.

One of its main protagonists and ambassadors is Reggae Boyz midfielder Devon “Speedy” Williams, who himself is a product of Jamaica's inner-city experience, having being brought up in the tough Central Kingston community known as Southside.

He shared with the Jamaica Observer that the event, like an ever-growing vine, continues to touch more lives in a variety of ways, actualising a main goal of the charity.

“We have grown immensely since our first staging and we have been really pleased with the first two installments and looking forward to the same turnout and more this time around,” he said.

“We are able to donate much more gears and equipment to primary schools after each event. Of note, our social media following has also grown and more people are paying attention and jumping on board,” Williams noted.

In addition to donating football gear and equipment (boots, balls, cones, etc) to the selected primary schools, Game For Life has also scored on the academic front.

“We also have provided private GSAT lessons for student athletes during the examination period, and we are particularly proud of this aspect,” Williams explained.

“Also, we provide food, transportation and the necessary materials needed for student athletes to take on what are now the PEP examinations,” he added.

The US-based player says the passion he, the GOL executive members and ambassadors have for their charity work is borne out of their own sufferings growing in Jamaica, plus a belief that giving back could help rescue young lives that could otherwise be sucked into a life of destructive behaviour.

“Charity to me is critical in the growth of a country and more specifically its youths and that is why the Game of Life Foundation is dear to my heart because I was once in need and got plenty help.

“I was in the shoes of many of the primary school students we are now helping — I was in need of boots, shin guards, bus fare to and from practice. I know what it feels like and the foundation allows me and our other ambassadors to help in whatever way we can now that we are in a position to lend a helping hand,” noted Williams.

“Football saved my life, and through the Game of Life foundation, I can in turn help to save another kid's life, because if it wasn't for football, I would have probably went left instead of right and we aim to help as many kids as possible, so that football can too lead them right and not left,” he added.

Williams, a former St George's College standout before shipping off to college in the USA, says it lifts his spirit to see athletes, particularly footballers committed to the most noble of causes, which is charity.

“It warms my heart to see my fellow footballers giving back to their communities no matter how small it may be. Everybody needs help sometimes and we must remain our brother's keeper. We all had help to reach where we are and now it's our time to do the helping,” asserted the Louisville FC players..

Williams, 26, had a message for those who want to support tomorrow's all-day event, but has yet to make up their minds: “My plea to supporters will be to come out and be a part of the future of the country's youths and the country's football.”

Game of Life, which Williams claims has gained its official credentials as a charity, is looking to further engage corporate Jamaica as it looks to broaden its portfolio so it can serve more schools in the future.

“We are getting support from The UWI, Red Bull, ISSA, 876stream and some private donors. And yes, we are definitely interested in getting cooperate Jamaica more involved.

“The last two stagings of the Charity Games, we have funded them ourselves. But I must say that the president of Game of Life Shamal Thomas and his co-founders have made it all happen. Also, we have an international partnership with Football For The World Foundation and they assist with majority of the gears and equipment needed,” Williams outlined.

Tomorrow's notable match-ups will see an Under-12 game between Phoenix Academy and Ballers Academy; a women's game between a Football For The World combined team vs Xavier Gilbert Select 11; Legends vs Celebrities: All Manning vs and All daCosta: and the final game of the day will feature Ambassadors and Friends, which will include current Reggae Boyz Damion Lowe, Oniel Fisher, Andre Blake, Junior Flemmings, Allando Barrett, Amal Knight, Darren Mattocks, Andre Lewis, Kevaugn Frater, Shaun Francis, plus others.

GOL Executive — Shamal Thomas (president), Jawayne Jarrett (vice-president), Chevon Montgomery (director), Christopher Cowan (director), Jahmar Brown (director), Nickard Swaby (director), Janielle Green (director), Wadien Edwards (director), Xavier Brown (director).

GOL Ambassadors — Amal Knight, Allando Barrett, Damian Lowe, Oniel Fisher, Junior Flemmings, Devon Williams, Andre Blake.

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