Kids net thousands of footy kits as RAF brings beautiful game to the world

81,000 football shirts donated, 58 countries supported and 15 years in operation. But mere numbers cannot quantify the joy of youngsters around the world who have been given access to the beautiful game.

RAF Shawbury's Taking Football to Africa and Beyond appeal has been supporting disadvantaged kids from impoverished areas around the world for a decade and a half, and the team have been reflecting on its success.

The appeal, organised by Wing Commander Neil Hope, began in late May 2006 in the run up to the World Cup in Germany. So far it has delivered 279,431 items, including 81,724 football shirts to 58 countries worldwide to date. Items have been distributed in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia to the less fortunate, bringing a smile and essential aid.

Items have reached small African villages as well as the huge towns of Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria as well as to mountain villages in the Peruvian Andes, refugee camps on the Syria/Turkey border; war torn Afghanistan and Iraq; diverse areas in Pakistan, India and across the Middle East and South East Asia. The items have assisted people from across all genders, faiths and beliefs portraying the truly diverse and inclusive reach of football and its ability to bring people together.

Donors have included The FA, Shrewsbury Town, Manchester United Foundation, QPR, RAF FA and Sheffield & Hallamshire CFA member clubs.

Neil said: ‘The appeal has been an unimaginable success. We have been fortunate to deliver so much aid through using the global love of football and have, hopefully, assisted in improving the lives of so many. Whilst Kenya, in East Africa, is the biggest recipient for the kit with most being distributed in the slum towns of Kibera, Kibagare and Mathare, we continue to deliver items across the world. It has certainly had its challenges with the logistics of deliveries and in the past 18 months of the global Covid pandemic, but this has made our deliveries more important than ever for those in the slum towns of Africa and beyond. Whilst many schools and clubs utilise the equipment, they are also able to use the surplus kit to swap or sell for food and essentials. It is down to the fabulous donations that we are able to provide this essential aid."

Over the years Neil has organised delivery trips to Kenya and Nepal. All travellers pay their own way as the appeal operates a no financial donation policy.

Neil has completed 13 Kenya trips taking over 70 volunteers with him, as well as four Nepal trips. In Kenya the team work closely with the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) and Braeburn Garden Estate International School. The link to the school is through its executive headmaster of Braeburn Schools East Africa, John Herbert, who hails from Shrewsbury."

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