If you want to take part in coaching run by Liberia’s Millennium Stars FC you will have been to three different training grounds this year – and the latest of them is on an island in the Monrovia swamps.
12th Street Island is located just beyond the 12th Street Community in the city’s Sinkor district. 12th Street Community is a populous, unplanned, urban village – a slum to the writers of the official reports. But it is also a lively and thriving community for many.
To get to 12th Street Island, you cross a makeshift bridge, at its widest, it measures the width of three planks. It takes about ten minutes to walk across.
The best local pitch is at Tubman High School in 12th Street itself, but that’s closed for repairs. The club’s official pitch, their spiritual home in Gbangaye Town (another ‘populous, unplanned, urban village’), has been washed away by recent rains.
The pitch at 12th Street Island has a tree just about half way down, near one touchline. Great for pre-match teamtalks; not so great for mazy dribbles or long-ball clearances…
The day after practice, the matches took place at Tubman High on 12th Street, now reopened. You’ll notice the improvements in the playing surfaces. The opposition was Cece United from Say Town, the opposite end of Sinkor from Gbangay Town.
Cece United ran out winners (as the football writers say) in both the under-10s and 11 to 15 matches, in front of an estimated 250 fans. Children’s football is hugely popular in Liberia and these organised games frequently draw crowds in excess of 300.