Awford youngsters savour ‘life-changing’ trip

Pompey Academy boss Andy Awford, left, with his young scholars in Nigeria
Pompey Academy boss Andy Awford, left, with his young scholars in Nigeria

Andy Awford believes Pompey’s youngsters have reaped the rewards from a ‘life-changing’ trip to Nigeria.

The Academy manager took six second-year scholars to Lagos last week to take part in a five-a-side tournament at the Eko Football Festival.

After receiving an invite to play from the Sodje Foundation, the club didn’t have to pay a penny for the five-day trip.

For Jack Maloney, Josh Warren, Nick Awford, Liam Triggs, James Hartson and George Branford, it provided a priceless experience of life in another country.

Pompey lost one and drew one as they went out in the group stages of the competition, with central-defender Warren grabbing two goals.

Away from the pitch, the youngsters visited two orphanages, giving out gifts.

And Awford is convinced the whole experience has benefited his youngsters tremendously.

He said: ‘The trip was very good and fulfilled everything we wanted it to.

‘We were well looked after and thanks go to the Sodje Foundation for facilitating it.

‘As regards the football, we had to adapt to the surface very quickly. The Astroturf was just about playable, if I am honest.

‘We also had to adapt to the rules, which included two seconds to take a kick-in rather than a throw-in, four seconds to take a free-kick and if your team commit six fouls in a half the opposition got a penalty.

‘Still, in the first game we lost 2-1 in unbelievable heat, with Warren netting.

‘The second match was held in the evening with the sun having dropped and a bit of a breeze and we drew 1-1, but should have won, Warren again scoring.

‘There were two groups of three so we didn’t progress to the final, unfortunately.

‘Away from the pitch, we visited two orphanages with our lads mixing in and talking to them.

‘The second orphanage was not even funded by the state, just by donations and that will stay with me forever. They were lovely kids who just wanted some love in their life.

‘For me, the players and staff to see that was the highlight of the trip. It was life-changing and it’s so important to be able to take something from that.

‘I won’t ever now moan about wanting a dome and up-to-speed training facilities after seeing those people make do with the best they can.’

Meanwhile, Academy coach Nick DeLong has left Pompey after being posted to Cyprus with the RAF.

And Awford has paid tribute to the departing DeLong, who worked with the under-nines and 10s.

He added: ‘I’d just like to wish Nick all the best from everybody at the Academy.

‘He was here when I arrived at the Academy and I soon realised what a lovely guy and very good coach he is and will be sorely missed.’