A Ghanaian worker helping build stadiums for the 2022 World Cup has teamed up with Brazilian soccer legend Cafu to promote football in poor communities.
Abdul Azeez Sulaiman left the Greater Accra region three years ago to join the $10billion preparation of the tournament in Qatar.
As well as working as a lifting and rigging supervisor at Al Rayyan Stadium, he also joined Generation Amazing, the country’s project to encourage football in the poorest parts of the world as part of the legacy of the 2022 event.
It led to the 28-year-old travelling from Doha to Brazil where he worked with Cafu on training sessions for underprivileged children from Sao Paulo’s Eprocad Foundation at the country’s Pacaembu Stadium.
Founded in 1994, it helps develop young people through sport as part of ‘street football world’ programme which operates not just in South America, but in Africa and Europe.
Cafu, a global ambassador for the 2002 tournament, is the most capped player in Brazil’s history, playing in an unprecedented four World Cup finals.
He said: ‘The story of Abdul Azeez is an example of life, a fantastic story. Every time I see him he is always happy, he is doing sensational work and he has to continue on this path.
‘The commitment of Generation Amazing is being rewarded, because it is using the power of football to work with youth around the world. Abdul Azeez should continue on the same path, because through him others will be inspired to do the same.’
Sulaiman, who has trained to become a Generation Amazing coach, spoke of his joy at travelling to Brazil and working in one of the poorest parts of the country.
He said: ‘With Generation Amazing, we have brought a lot of life skills and values like teamwork and responsibility to youth in Brazil.
‘The most special thing to me was the activation in Sao Paulo. We really made Generation Amazing proud, and we made all the participants happy. I thank God, the Generation Amazing team and everybody who was there and witnessed the message of inclusion which we are sending to the world. We had a lot of fun with Cafu, the atmosphere was very inspiring’.
At the end of the session Abdul Azeez handed Cafu a special gift of a traditional shirt from Ghana, while in return the soccer legend – who lifted the World Cup as his country’s captain in 2002 – signed one of Brazil’s famous yellow shirts for his African friend.
Artur Soares, 18, one of the teenagers who took part in the session, said afterwards: ‘The session was very dynamic, and Abdul Azeez was a great inspiration to me. You don’t need to be a famous player in order to do something special in football.
‘I am very thankful for this experience today. It instilled in me values of life, to continue even if you fall, you have to get up and continue trying your best in life.’
Generation Amazing has benefitted 500,000 youngsters around the world and aims to reach a million by the time the tournament kicks off in three years’ time.
Hassan Al Thawadi, head of Qatar’s Supreme Committee, said: ‘Seeing Abdul Azeez interact with the local children and seeing him grow through Generation Amazing – this is exactly what the programme is about.
‘Abdul Azeez has been on an inspirational journey – a worker on one of your stadiums who participated on one of our legacy programmes and rose to become a coach and ambassador.
‘Generation Amazing is about every individual utilising the power of football – not only to create a better life for themselves but also inspiring others to do so. This is the legacy we want to create.’