South East Wales

Craig Bellamy's Sierra Leone football academy graduate in USA trip

Sahid Conteh and Kelsey Sullivan
Image caption Sahid Conteh has a four-year sports scholarship at a California high school

The first African graduate from the football academy founded by Cardiff City and Wales player Craig Bellamy is to fly to the USA later.

Sahid Conteh, aged 14, leaves Sierra Leone to begin a four-year sports scholarship in California.

The teenager was picked from 100 youngsters selected from 60 locations.

In January this year, the foundation supported a project to give disadvantaged young people in Cardiff a chance to volunteer in Africa.

Ten youngsters from Cardiff spent two weeks in Sierra Leone with local children leading workshops on sexual health, nutrition, skills and football.

Bellamy created the foundation after visiting the West African nation in 2007 while he was player at Liverpool.

The foundation's chief executive officer, Tim Kellow, said it aims to scout footballing and academic potential in boys aged 10 and 11.

The football academy offers five-year scholarships to children aged 11 to 13.

Last year, three boys trained with Cardiff City, and this year two more spent the summer at Liverpool FC's academy.

Image caption Craig Bellamy created the foundation in 2008 after visiting Sierra Leone the year before

He said that since its formation, the foundation has also played a role in the creation of the country's youth football league structure, taking in around 2,400 youngsters, boys and girls, in some 70 clubs.

He said Bellamy was last in Sierra Leone in 2011 when he met and trained with Sahid during a 10-day visit.

Mr Kellow said: "Sahid is a wonderfully polite and mature and well-rounded boy who has taken to the training and education and life skills so well. We think he is ready."

The teenager is to study at Dunn School near Santa Barbara.

He said: "I am very excited to be going to America. I am looking forward to meeting new people, playing football and getting a good education."

The foundation's USA co-ordinator, Kelsey Sullivan, will accompany Sahid and help him settle in to daily life in California.

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