Peter Link (left) of Byron Bay soccer club donates a pair of boots to Sheldon Thomson for his ride through Africa.
Peter Link (left) of Byron Bay soccer club donates a pair of boots to Sheldon Thomson for his ride through Africa.

Africa on Sheldon's agenda

THE first step of a very long journey for Byron Bay soccer player Sheldon Thomson will be taken today with the ‘rideforsmiles’ six-a-side tournament at the Byron Bay Recreation Ground starting at 11am.

The event will kick-start Thomson’s driving ambition to ride a motorcycle through 10 African nations and into Europe later this year to raise awareness and donations for several worthy causes.

The tournament will be run by the Byron Bay club and will be for mixed teams of six, with players from any club welcome to attend and be allocated into teams for the round-robin competition, which will run until late afternoon.

After a near fatal road accident in 2007 when hit from behind by a semi-trailer, Thomson was left with 12 fractured ribs , a lacerated liver, collapsed lung, five fractures in the back and a head injury.

But during his long recuperation the last thing on his mind was feeling sorry for himself – he focused on how lucky he was and how he may be able to help those less fortunate.

Combining his love of soccer and motorcyles, he came up with the plan to ride a Kawasaki KLR 650 more than 15,000km from South Africa all the way to Europe with mate Graeme Miller.

During their four-month trip they will distribute soccer gear to isolated communities in Ethiopia where he is also trying to get an inter-school competition up and running.

Thomson is looking for schools here to establish sister school relationships as well as calling for support for Riders For Health, which provides access to vehicles for health care workers in parts of Africa.

He has already enlisted the support of the Northern NSW Football Federation, which is donating disused rep strips, and Thomson has asked for donations of boots, uniforms and anything else that may assist from locals at the tournament today.

Several of the local Sudanese community will be playing to lend an African flavour to the event, with Thomson encouraging everyone to come along to either play or just be part of the day.

Thomson’s website is rideforsmiles.com



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