If you’re reading this then it’s safe to assume that you’re a football fan and if you’re a football fan then it’s equally suggestive that languishing somewhere in a drawer in your abode is a club shirt in good condition that is – how can this be put diplomatically? – no longer complimentary to your build. Hey, there is no judgement here. We all had those fistfuls of Celebrations over Christmas.
The shirt has become a paradox. You can’t throw it out because that would be sacrilegious and you’re reluctant to donate it to a local charity shop because what if some mum buys it on the cheap for her son who is not really into football but thinks that your club’s rival striker is the bee’s knees? He’s not the bee’s knees. He’s an arrogant, over-hyped git. No, it’s best to keep it because one day you might lose a bit of timber and wear it again for 5-a-side but if it were a jumper it would already be shoved into a clothes recycling bag which tells us where the reality lies there.
You may have figured out by now that I’m no longer referring to your shirt; the one that’s languishing in your drawer. I’m actually talking about mine, a Manchester City maroon away from 2012. I love that shirt but I hate it too. Every time that drawer is opened it taunts me for the waistline I once had.
KitAid is a charity that redistributes football kits to the underprivileged across the developing countries of the world. In their twenty years of existence they have donated 484,000 items of kit to Africa, South America, Asia and Eastern Europe often to those who materially have very little. It is a huge support project run entirely by volunteers on a meagre budget of five thousand pounds a year and in recent years they have extended their mandate, using kit to help get a positive message across on health education, gang and knife crime, and drug dependency prevention. Last year a donated item of kit helped form a dialogue with poachers to stop them killing chimpanzees in Tanzania.
It was there in east Africa where the nucleus of the charity first began as KitAid’s founder Derrick Williams MBA explains:
“I started KitAid in 1998 when I visited Tanzania to look at water development projects. In every village young kids would want to talk about the Premier League and they always asked if I could provide them with a shirt, a kit and a football. In one really remote village a boy appeared wearing a worn out Liverpool shirt, with the sponsor name no longer visible, but he was really proud of it. I took a photo and when I showed it to friends back home, we all said the same thing: let’s fill a box of our old kit that is either past it, doesn’t fit any more or not needed. I sent the box to the village where I had seen the boy as a one off, and the reaction once it arrived, made me realise it couldn’t stop there.”
It didn’t. Realising the power of good that can be derived from the unifying power of football Derrick now oversees an organisation that has forged partnerships with several Premier League and Football League clubs along with many grass roots clubs. They are also supported by kit suppliers and manufacturers together with schools and companies. And then there’s us, with shirts we don’t know what to do with. A paradox in our drawer.
Their present aim is to reach half a million donated items in time for their 20th anniversary this June and in order to achieve that a large team of volunteers continue to hold monthly boxing-up sessions in Hatfield, Herts and quarterly sessions in St Luke’s, Liverpool, the church that pokes through a corner of Goodison Park. Each month they send out 6,000 items of kit that is first collected, sorted and boxed up. They have regional helpers in towns and cities across the UK but they could always do with more.
“The model is simple but effective and we know from feedback that the kit has a massive impact,” Derrick told Tifo this week. “We have a saying, ‘It’s more than just a shirt…’”
Footy mad children in remote villages across the globe wholeheartedly agree.
If you would like to donate a shirt to KitAid you can do so here but please read the text highlighted in yellow beforehand. What also makes a substantial difference are drives, held at schools, workplaces, or even your local club.
Additionally the charity is presently struggling to find a cheap and reliable courier company who can collect kit donations and deliver them to Hatfield.