DARWEN is to be twinned with a town in Gambia after coaches from a youth football team went out to the West African country on a charity mission.

Five people from Darwen Spartans junior football club and a councillor headed to Africa with charity Football Gambia, helping to build a medical centre and a school while giving football coaching sessions to locals.

Club president and founder Mark Atkinson told Darwen town councillors at a meeting on Tuesday that the ‘AlKalo’ of Lamin, the town’s leader, in western Gambia, had asked for the towns to be twinned.

Members of the club had presented him with a replica of Darwen Tower, donated by the town council, which the AlKalo gave pride of place in his home.

Also on the trip were under-14s manager David Buck, under-12s manager Neil Lofthouse and Earcroft councillor Stephanie Brookfield.

Mr Atkinson said: “When we presented the tower to the committee in Lamin, they were overwhelmed.

“There was such a celebration, you would think it was the Olympics.

“I really want us to go ahead with the twinning and think it will raise the profile of the town and become a talking point.

Councillors unanimously agreed that the twinning should go ahead, and the council is now looking to get extra lettering put on the three ‘welcome to Darwen’ signs in the town.

Mr Atkinson said: “Everyone who went was a credit to the club and a credit to Darwen.

“They all worked their socks off digging trenches in rock-hard sand, building steps and coaching football in 40-degree heat.”

Football Gambia founder Ian Stapleton said he was delighted at the news of the twinning.

He said: “It is great news and works out really well for everyone.

“The Darwen lads are already getting ready for their next project, which will be to implement an irrigation unit on a vegetable patch they built last year.

“The twinning is a great symbol of the hard work that has gone on with the charity.”

Twinning ceremonies, taking place simultaneously in Darwen and Lamin, will happen in January next year, when the charity’s next trip to Gambia will be.

It is hoped the ceremony in Gambia will be attended by the country’s president, Yahya Jammeh.

A town called Lamin

  • Lamin is a town in Gambia’s Western Division, and is not to be confused with a small town of the same name on the country’s North Bank.
  • The town is made up of two main clans – Bojand and Manneh – who founded the town. Anyone not belonging to the two main clans is considered a ‘lountan’, or outsider.The Football Gambia charity has been visiting Lamin since 2010.
  • Gambia, which gained independence from the UK in 1965, is a country in West Africa that sits either side of the Gambia River and is surrounded by Senegal.
  • About a third of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day.