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Sierra Leone to Sydney Swans

AfricaThe Sydney Swans are excited to announce they have signed one of the most gifted young athletes in NSW to their recently-established Academy. African-born Alex Jalloh, 14, has excelled at soccer, rugby, athletics and Australian football, but has opted to be part of the Swans Advanced Academy, which means he can be drafted directly to the Club in 2013.

The Academy’s talent identification and operations manager, Chris Smith, said Jalloh’s signing was a major win for the Academy. “This is a real win for the Sydney Swans Academy where a priority is attracting kids who have the ability to excel at a number of sports,’’ Smith said. “The fact Alex chose the Swans Academy in its first year of operation, over his other sporting options, is extremely pleasing. We’re excited to have the opportunity to nurture and develop Alex’s extraordinary athletic talent,’’ Smith said.

Jalloh was born in Sierra-Leone. His father died when he was two, and Alex and his twin brother, Andrew, came to Australia when they were eight years old. Andrew was also a gifted sportsman with a passion for junior AFL, but sadly he died of stomach cancer in 2008.

Soon after, Alex decided to give up his dream to play international soccer and instead turned his focus to playing junior AFL.“Andrew wanted to play in the AFL and I was going to play soccer but when he passed away I decided to play AFL and to do it for him,’’ Alex said.

“Now I’m very excited to be part of the Swans Academy. I love playing AFL, and every game I play, it's for Andrew. When I play, I always write "tifa'' – this is for Andrew – on my arm and when I kick a goal I look at it,’’ said Alex, who is a boarder at St Ignatius College, Riverview, in Sydney.

Alex said the Swans had played an important part in helping him deal with his circumstances. “The Swans have helped me so much. Now I can see myself playing in a red and white guernsey one day.’’

Alex has been courted by other football codes including soccer and rugby league and has won national titles in the 100m and 200m.

He and his brother had their first taste of AFL when they played in the Paul Kelly Cup while they were in Year Six at Belmore North Public School in Sydney. Even though none of the students in the team had played the game before, they won the NSW final, with Andrew and Alex stars of the team.

Alex now plays both AFL and rugby for Riverview, and was recently selected in the NSW U15 AFL side to play in the national schools championships. Smith said Alex would start training immediately with the Academy’s advanced squad of boys aged 14 to 17. “Alex is elite at soccer, rugby and athletics and is now also an elite AFL junior. He has speed and strength and we've been very impressed by his maturity, focus and ability to work hard,’’ Smith said.

“This signing proves that our Academy will provide a very attractive pathway into AFL for local boys in Sydney and NSW. That’s what the Swans Academy is here for. This is a wonderful story for Alex and the Swans, but the real story for me will be seeing Alex one day play a senior game for the Sydney Swans. That is the goal.’’
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Sierra Leone to Sydney Swans
Authored by: Troy Thompson on Friday, June 10 2011 @ 11:23 am ACST