Football, association football, or soccer? Call it what you like, it is the world’’s most popular sport.

And, unpublicised though it is, the world’s best football club in 2012, FC Barcelona, is a member or ‘socio’ owned club run on cooperative principles.

The cooperative model works at the top end of the sport. And a network of cooperative football clubs is proving that the model works at the grassroots in Africa as well.

Sandlanders Football is the network through which the global community can become associate members of four different cooperative football clubs in Ghana, Liberia, Kenya and Uganda.

Keta Sandlanders in Ghana, Ligi Ndogo SSC in Kenya, VOA Sandlanders in the capital of Liberia, Monrovia and Mutundwe Sandlanders in Uganda make up the Sandlanders network.

“The network is growing and will soon include a number of other clubs from across Africa which already has a strong tradition of community ownership of sports clubs,” says Sandlanders co-founder Paul Jones.

The clubs have all come from humble beginnings. In the case of Mutundwe Sandlanders the founder Chris Kalibbala started out with the “Nsolo Nnene” (big animal) and “Nsolo Ntono” (small animal) competitions.

They played for the first seven years on a cleared, but later abandoned, building site. When the building works were revived, the football side was homeless until a local family helped out with new land.

And, in typical cooperative fashion, Sandlanders clubs are involved in projects which benefit their local communities. In the case of Mutundwe it is providing a place to thrive for talented players from all over Kampala, Uganda’s capital. In the case of Keta Sandlanders, the club is working on plans to develop a new community centre and playing field.

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