A GROUP of football lovers recently took a memorable two-week trip to one of the poorest places in West Africa.

Ten men from our area travelled from Fairford to a small town called Madina, north of Sierra Leone, in Africa at the beginning of March.

Most of the group - Simon Michelson, Chris McLaren, Sonny Deo, Mark Brown, Mathew Morgan, Eddie Stokes, Dave Thomas, Tony Warrington, Tony Wilkins and Andrew Slowly - play football regularly with Dr Rohit Sethi who goes on annual trips to Madina to help with a variety of community projects. 

The GP first visited Sierra Leone in 2008 with his wife Veronica Sawicki and decided to set up a charity called Help Madina a few years later.

Over the last decade, the charity has set up a feeding centre, water wells, toilet blocks and most recently an education centre. 

This year many people living there expressed a desire for a football tournament so the charity founders gathered up an eager group of volunteers to help make this a reality. 

The group help run the last few stages of a 32-team knock out tournament between Saturday, March 2 and Sunday, March 17. 

Dr Sethi said: "Football is massive in Sierra Leone.

"It is a healthy distraction from all the hardships that young people face, and it also brings communities together. 

"The charity has been distributing football kit and equipment, that has been donated by professional and amateur football clubs, over the last few years.

"Our latest trip was the first time that we took out a big group of volunteers.

"They all really immersed themselves in a variety of community projects and all brought different skills to the table.

"Most of the group play football together in Lechlade regularly but a few new people came onboard too.

"We organised a programme so that the villagers could get involved in a knock-out football tournament and the final was held in Madina. 

"We were there to help adjudicate and get involved in the last few stages of the tournament."

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