Published: 06:03, 07 February 2020
An African football team has found winning form after being spurred on by a kindly donation from a Faversham club.
It was on a visit to Gambia to watch Raiders FC in Farafenni that University of Kent professor Adam Burgess was taken aback by what he saw.
He was invited on the trip by Yusuf Tunkara, whose children, Kanye and Kalila, attend Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School with Adam’s son Francis, a Faversham Strike Force player.
Head teacher David Anderson agreed to allow the out- of-term-time visit to go ahead as a cultural exchange, and father-of-three Adam was amazed at the ability of the players.
“One thing we were struck by was the determination and skill of the town football team,” the-57-year-old said. “But we were also struck by their dire lack of basic kit - no small issue when you’re playing on rocky sand.
“I was also struck by how sport could play such a positive role in a poor country like Gambia, where young men can be tempted to try and dangerously make it to the west, with often tragic circumstances.”
Compelled by the team’s determination, Adam and his fellow visitors decided to try and find a way to help the team.
“On return, we liaised with Steve Griffiths at Faversham Strike Force,” he said. “He got an old kit together, which Yusuf then managed to send out there.”
The blue kit - once worn by Strike Force players - is emblazoned with the words The Swan and Harlequin, the name of a former Faversham pub.
“They are now nicknaming themselves The Swans after the now-closed pub, whose name adorns their shirts,” Adam added. “The team went on to win the league - powered on by their new kits.”
Grateful to have received their new attire, the team has since written to express their thanks for the donation.
The letter reads: “We want to say a big thank you for the kits. We are all very happy and it made us win the trophy this season.
“When we wear the kits we are so happy and we play well. So thanks a lot.
“This is the best time for our club and it’s all because we are happy, and very importantly the kits.
“We want to win more trophies for you all. Hope you can come back and watch us play again. We would love that.”
The handwritten letter was accompanied with photos of the players donning their new kit, and proudly holding the league trophy.
But something struck a chord with football coach Steve.
“When Steve saw the picture with the team attired in odd shoes - rather than proper boots - he declared he ‘wasn’t having that’,” Adam said.
“He is now setting about getting boots and shin pads together as well.
“If anyone can help with that, it would be welcome.
“It was nice to do something very practical for other people, which is about more than just survival, and involves local people at both ends.
“Please contact us if you have quantities of suitable equipment - particularly boots.”
If you can help with football boots email Adam at A.Burgess@kent.ac.uk
More by this authorKatie Davis