Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Welcome to the F&M Soccer Africa Project Blog

When Dan Wagner first approached me about the Soccer Africa Project in the spring of 2007, it was a small community service project with humble goals. All of that changed in August. One day prior to Franklin & Marshall’s men’s soccer team’s arrival on campus, rising senior and returning All-Centennial Conference choice, Christopher T. Campbell, passed away.

The night before Chris’ passing, I had loaded action photos of returning soccer players into Netitor, the backend of the site. His shock of red hair left me confident he would be easy to spot on the field, and that he would be the one identity I would be certain of as I embarked on my first soccer season with the Diplomats. The day of Chris’ passing, I was writing the soccer preview for the web site, and had quoted Wagner on Campbell being, “the cog in the center,” and “the catalyst on offense.”

That preview was never posted.

Everything F&M soccer changed on that day. The team and its coach were clearly in shock, and there were more questions than there were answers to go around. After the initial grieving, something very positive, and equally organic, began brewing. It was a celebration of a great life rather than the mourning of a great loss.

I had never met Chris Campbell. I had never seen him set a cleat on the pitch. But on a warm September evening, I watched a community larger than soccer and athletics pour out its heart in celebration of a friend and roommate. The healing had begun and the direction of Dan Wagner’s humble project pivoted.

F&M’s Soccer Africa project is no longer about collecting soccer balls, cleats, and uniform sets, though donations are still appreciated. It is no longer a project hoping to secure traction an ocean away. F&M’s soccer Africa project has raised over $150,000 USD. Plans for a Christopher T. Campbell Memorial Soccer Complex in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa, are well underway. Ryan McGonigle, Campbell’s best friend and roommate, will spend a year as an intern, tending to the soil these seeds are being planted in. Wagner’s long-term vision of lifting up a community through education and soccer is being fulfilled.

"What people don't realize is so unique about the Grassroot Soccer approach is that soccer is a minimal component," says Wagner. "This is not a sports plus education program, this is an education program, plus sports."

There is work yet to be done. More money needs to be raised to make the Campbell Memorial Complex a reality, but with Wagner on point, it is clear the dream will be realized.

The next step in realizing the dream is the trip. F&M will send 53 Diplomats to Africa for Spring Break. Between now and then, Survivor winner and Fox Sports Soccer Analyst, Ethan Zohn will come on campus to speak on Monday, March 3. Zohn is heavily involved with Grassroot Soccer. A fraternity and a sorority will sponsor yet another fundraiser to donate to the cause. On this site, several F&M soccer players will share their experiences and photos from now through the trip’s completion and beyond.

This site will be the home of the voice of the foot soldiers. We hope you’ll follow the project as it grows, but we’d rather you become involved!


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