Pitching in: Surf soccer team helping to build a field in Ghana

The girls Surf 2006 ENCL team.

San Diego Surf Soccer Club Coach Louis Hunt and his U15 Girls ECNL team are hoping to make a difference through the beautiful game. The team is currently fundraising to build a new football pitch for youth players in a small village of Ghana—so far they have raised $5,875 toward their $12,000 goal.

Hunt has a passion for philanthropy and, as a coach, he has a desire to teach his young players the value of giving back.

Ghana Lions AVFC soccer players in Ghana.

“We are and we need to be better than just a soccer club,” Hunt said.

A native of England, Hunt’s love of football started when he was a kid and he played through university. When he moved to the United States 15 years ago he started out coaching with the Los Angeles Surf affiliate. He moved to San Diego five years ago where he is now the assistant director of coaching, director of goalkeeping and the technical director of the Surf Nation affiliate program in addition to coaching the 2006 girls.

Hunt supports Aston Villa, the professional English football club Premier League. On one of the Villa social media pages, someone had posted a Daily Mail article about a group of faithful Aston Villa supporters in a far away Ghana village and the 21-year-old who had founded a youth football club called the Ghana Lions AVFC.

The founder, Owusu Boakye Amando, inherited a love for Aston Villa from his grandfather. The whole village of Juaben gets together to watch English Premier League matches, donning claret and blue and singing Aston Villa chants in the early morning hours.

“Seeing many of his peers get into trouble when they no longer had direction, entering a life of crime and early pregnancy, he decided to take action,” wrote Hunt of Amando’s Ghana Lions. “He started the Ghana Lions AVFC not to develop the next world football star but to provide the youth of his community an opportunity to develop the tools necessary to have a prosperous life, teach them self-worth, benefits of teamwork, value of friendship, honesty and understanding.”

When Hunt retweeted the article, the fellow coach and Villa supporter Amando connected with him via Twitter. After messaging back and forth, Hunt asked him: “What do you need help with?”

“He said: ‘We need a pitch’,” Hunt said.

After seeing talented young players playing in the dirt or in the street, some barefoot or in sandals, Hunt was determined to help get a proper pitch for the Ghana Lions. His wife helped him find a nonprofit to work through called “It Starts With Soccer.” Based in Austin, It Starts with Soccer combines soccer with community outreach projects to promote lasting change in impoverished African communities.

Teaming up with It Starts With Soccer, the Hunts decided they would start by committing some of their own money to the cause. He then pitched the new pitch to his Surf girls during a team bonding session: “The kids were loving it.” Every year the group of girls has participated in a voluntary community service project as Hunt stresses how important it is for them recognize how fortunate they are and to give back: “We are so lucky…some kids don’t get the same opportunities,” he tells them.

Hunt wants to show the young women on his team that they have the power to lend a helping hand in this life. They might not remember every soccer game they played but he hopes they will remember making a difference.

“It’s good karma. I want them to get that feeling I have when you give back,” Hunt said. “It’s such an incredible feeling.”

In just a few short weeks, the team has reached nearly the halfway point of their fundraising goal. Work has already started on the project as the Ghana Lions shared photos with Hunt of tractors leveling the ground. The next steps will be bringing in the nutrient-rich soil needed to support a grass pitch, goal posts, nets and corner flags as well as a perimeter fence to protect against livestock.

In addition to completing the field project, the Surf team is also looking for donations of soccer gear.

“My goal is to provide these fellow Villa fans the chance to enjoy the beautiful game as much as I did as a child playing, and now as a coach,” Hunt said. “Up the Villa.”

To donate or learn more visit itstartswithsoccer.org/campaigns/ghana-lions-pitch-project/