The Gulu region of Northern Uganda may seem an odd place to see Brentford kits but thanks to a partnership between Brentford’s Academy and Gulu United FC that is just what is happening.
The United for United campaign, led by Adrian Bradbury, saw Academy Head of Coaching Stuart English spend two weeks in Uganda this summer working with the coaches and players of the Gulu region as well as delivering replica Brentford kit to the locals.
For Stuart, whose previous clubs include Wycombe Wanders, Luton Town and London Wasps, it was a fantastic experience and one which left him amazed at the desire, passion and footballing ability of the children in Uganda.
“Adrian’s charity worked with projects in Gulu before the wars and that has now spread to football in Uganda by helping educate the coaches and give the kids opportunities,” said Stuart.
“Ose sat me down and asked would I be interested in going out there and that was all I knew initially.
“I went out there to coach and work with the players but also to try and give the coaches details of how coaching works in England and to give them a little bit of structure.
“The main thing was a summer training programme for the kids and the coaches.
“It was an amazing experience which was so different from the experience I have coaching here.
“The players, when they turned up, had no trainers, boots, socks or shinpads.
“The kids were just happy to have a football and were buzzing to be playing football and be coached as I don’t think they had ever been coached before.
“In terms of the standard in Uganda I was very impressed as there were players with great technique and athleticism but who played with incredible desire.
“We took kit out this time so there are kids in Uganda running around with Brentford kit on which is spreading the name of the club.
“All the kids out there support Brentford now even though before they only supported Manchester United or Liverpool.”
The Gulu region of Uganda is a seven hour drive north of the capital Kampala and is home to around 150,000 people.
Giving its remote setting Stuart says the region is unchartered territory as far as football clubs as concerned.
Stuart believes that once the basic infrastructure can be put in place both parties will start to see huge benefits from the arrangement.
The former Luton Town Football Development Officer added that there are many ideas about how to expand this partnership in the future.
“The part of Uganda we were in was a seven hour drive from the airport so there was definitely nothing else going on there,” said Stuart.
“I think generally Africa is quite an untapped market.
“They don’t have much so initially you have to go there and give them a lot to try and help them.
“The coaches were so keen but they had never had any opportunity to go on any courses.
“It was a case of giving them a bit of guidance from my work here at the academy and they seemed to really enjoy it.
“In the long term we are looking to see if there is potential to bring some of them over.
“That is something we are looking to do in the next couple of months with one of the players who was particularly outstanding at the camp.
“Adrian is looking for people to invest to give air miles so that this player and coach can be given this opportunity to come over to Brentford for two weeks.
“There were a lot of meetings when we were out there between Gulu United officials, Adrian and myself and lots of good ideas were thrown around.
“Adrian is now sitting down trying to get more funding so he is thinking about where he wants to take things.
“One option might be to employ a full-time coach out there to work with them on a day to day basis.
“Another might be to do regular training camps, maybe three or four a year.
“The main idea at the moment is to bring a coach and a player over to educate them and then send them back to educate the others.
“At the moment we are mainly looking at education but in the long term it is about getting more funding, more kit and more equipment and looking at where we can take it from there.”
Stuart hopes that should one of the players from Gulu United travel to the UK for a period at Brentford’s Academy that he can use his experiences of playing football in Uganda to inspire The Bees Academy prospects to make the most of their opportunity.
Stuart believes that sometimes Academy players in the UK forget what an opportunity they have and he hopes that the story and experiences of someone from a different walk of life will encourage the players, coaches and parents to fulfil their potential.
“Sometimes the players here get given a lot and they don’t always show as much hunger whereas out there the kids would give anything to have the opportunity that players have here,” said Stuart.
“Somehow we have to get that across to our players that they do have a lot and they have a great opportunity here.
“We would like the player to talk to our academy boys about life in Uganda to try and educate not only the players but also the coaches and parents.
“We will look at the Ugandan players, who don’t have anything but are so happy and hungry, and see how to get our players to the same level.
“It will be hard because it is a cultural thing but it is something we are definitely looking into.”
Bees Player subscribers will be able to see the full interview with Stuart from tomorrow