Johan Djourou in Senegal - Picture Gallery
Johan Djourou in Senegal
Arsenal reporter Nick Ames is in Senegal for the week - following Johan Djourou every step of the way as he visits his Kemi Malaika Foundation, and calling in at Patrick Vieira’s Diambars academy.
The month of June might signal beach time for some footballers - but not Johan Djourou. He’s here in Saly, Senegal this week, making his second visit to the Kemi Malaika Foundation of which he is an ambassador, and over the past two days he visited the areas that benefit from the charity’s work and made a very special presentation.
As well as Johan, our party includes the charismatic Costa Bonato - the founder of Kemi Malaika - and General Mamadou Seck, the former Senegalese ambassador to the US. Having travelled to Saly on Monday, we spent yesterday morning in the neighbouring commune of Ngaparou, where our ports of call included a women’s group, a local school and the town’s football team.
Johan’s willingness to engage with all that he sees, and everyone he meets, is striking. We never leave a location until he has greeted all who throng to meet him; he poses question after interested question to the local mayor and councillors who accompany us.
At the football club, Johan donated a new set of balls and immediately embarked upon some five-a-side with the team, which plays in the Senegalese second tier. At the school, he handed over a cheque for roughly £8,500 - which will fund the completion of three new classrooms.
Kemi Malaika invests in the entire community - underpinning the centrepiece of its work. Kalan School is the foundation’s pride and joy. In a country with literacy levels of around 40 per cent and unemployment at 48 per cent, a huge percentage of children can not obtain the skills they need to build a better future. Kalan aims to bring together those of all social classes and backgrounds to provide a new standard of education to Senegal.
Yesterday afternoon, pupils at Kalan were given an afternoon off lessons, and treated us to a feast of choral and theatrical performances. The school is set in a courtyard shaded by mango trees and, under one of those, Johan signed shirts for a queue of youngsters. The smiles were heartfelt, both ways.
I’ll go into greater detail tomorrow with exclusive thoughts from Johan. He’s talked in depth about his close relationship to Africa, and what it means for him to be a fundamental part of the Kemi Malaika project.
Now I’m off to Diambars, Patrick Vieira’s football academy. I’ll be linking back up with Johan and company tonight.