Nigerian born diva Patti Boulaye has virtually singlehandedly dedicated the last 5 years to building clinics in Africa for children suffering from HIV/AIDS. This stems from a visit she made to Africa where she learned that babies born with the HIV virus were buried alive in order to kill the demons inside the children and therefore protect the families and community.
This year, Patti decided to attempt to enlist footballers, and to use their profiles to increase awareness of her charity. A concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London was held on Sunday 23rd September.
(L-R): Patti Boulaye, Brent Sancho, Kelvin Jack
Patti contacted the Professional Footballers Association for assistance and was provided with contact details for Portsmouth's Lauren. She also contacted Didier Drogba, who agreed to sing at the event. Thierry Henry donated signed boots and provided a young achiever award, and Lauren provided a signed Arsenal shirt.
FPATT heard of the event and contacted Leon Mann of Lets Kick Racism Out Of Football who was working with Patti to try to enlist support from footballers. Kevin Harrison contacted Patti and she was delighted at the prospect of some of Trinidad & Tobago's World Cup Players supporting the event.
Football juggler Boney M
The event itself was very well attended by the public. Aside from Patti performing some original songs, the audience was entertained by a 3000 voice gospel choir, dance troupes, various artists including The New Seekers, and Boney M, a football juggling maestro who had even the footballers gasping at his skills, a group consisting of WAGS (footballers wives and girlfriends) supported by a ladies football team, several traditional African groups and a host of famous personalities including the actor Simon Callow, Angie Best, Brentford FC chairman Greg Dyke (who sang Great Balls Of Fire!) and author Frederick Forsyth. The English national Ladies football team also sent a message by video from China.
Didier Drogba finally arrived by helicopter from Manchester (after Chelseas 2-0 defeat), but sadly, once he took the stage, he stated that he would not be singing as he had no time to rehearse after the weeks events at Chelsea. Although this was disappointing, it would have been easy for Drogba to cancel and not even make an appearance, especially flying back from Manchester after losing to Man U. However, he stayed and signed autographs and had his photo taken with lots of children, and did it all in good spirit.
(L-R): Ibrahim Sonko, Kelvin Jack, Brent Sancho
Aside from Kelvin Jack, Brent Sancho and Senegal captain Ibrahim Sonko, no other players supported the event. It was understood that Essien, Lauren and David James would be attending as well as some of the younger Arsenal players, but they failed to materialise.
Patti Boulaye hugs Kelvin JackKelvin, Brent and Sonko were invited on stage to sing the final song together with the other performers, and it was great to see that Patti Boulaye made a point of going to them and hugging them during the song (although this may have just been a plan to stop Brent and Kelvin singing!)
Henry's boots were auctioned for £5,000 ($65,000TT) and the Arsenal shirt for £3,000 ($39,000TT).
The event raised over £30,000 ($390,000TT), with more money yet to be counted.
It was noted that there were so few footballers present and no representation from the PFA. However, Patti and many other people who attended, praised FPATT, Kelvin & Brent for supporting the event. I was proud to witness 4 World Cup footballers on stage, 50% of whom were from Trinidad & Tobago.
Although footballers are asked to attend many events and obviously value their personal time, it is sad to see so little support, particularly from African footballers.
I would like to thank Brent and Kelvin for attending and for furthering the growing respect that FPATT is achieving in the UK.
(L-R): Ibrahim Sonko, Brent Sancho, Kelvin Jack
I will leave the last words to Frederick Forsyth, the author of many bestselling novels including Day of The Jackal. He said that "all people of all nations of the world were linked by a common language...music. Everyone can understand it, share it, dance to it and sing to it. Which makes you realise that there is actually more that unites us, than divides us."
It was worth attending just to take those words away with me to share with you.