Grassroots work could spawn a star - The Province


The next Nash might also come from Africa

BY MARC WEBER

It's possible -- though far from the point -- that one day a kid will come through a Steve Nash-funded Football for Good academy in a war-ravaged region of the world, and suit up for the Steve Nash-owned MLS Whitecaps.

"Not from a business standpoint, but from a global community standpoint, it would be fantastic," said Nash. "To see a kid from Uganda come as far as Vancouver to learn the language, educate themselves, grow as a person and train as a professional -- that would be amazing."

The Steve Nash Foundation has teamed up with Toronto-based Athletes for Africa on an ambitious, creative new project to develop sustainable world-class youth soccer academies in war-torn regions.

Gulu in northern Uganda, which has suffered through two decades of civil war, is going to be the model. The aim is for a European-style academy to identify and develop local players for sale on the world market, and for the transfer fees to be pumped back into community-centred businesses, a youth centre, as well as the academy itself.

"We're really excited, we think we've got a great concept here," said Nash. "We had a survey done in the area and the majority wanted the opportunity for the kids with talent to take that talent somewhere and change their lives. Then they can change the lives of those around them.

"When you think about Africa and the rest of the world, there are so many cultural differences, except football. We felt that it was a real connective tissue."

Nash said they're talking to potential academy bosses now and while it might not be a famous name, it will certainly be someone with experience at a top European academy.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nash left before the age of two, and said he still feels detached from the country that will host the 2010 World Cup, and that this project was no more personal than any other.

"More than anything," he said, "I feel a sense of community with the world."

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