A band of big-hearted Terriers fans are supporting a youngsters’ football team in faraway Sierra Leone - and changing lives.
Phil Speight and his fellow members on the Huddersfield Town Family Friendly Facebook Group spotted a Facebook post by 21-year-old Elias Bangura who, having been inspired by Town’s Premier League triumph, formed his own team in West Africa: Huddersfield FC Freetown.
It has led to an unusual brotherhood. Separated by a distance of more than 4,000 miles, the Town supporters are giving their fellow Freetown footie fans the chance of a decent game.
Now Phil, Mark Overend, Phillip Ross, Kieran Marshall and Amir Saleem are spearheading an appeal to send footwear and other key kit to Elias and his team who are aged from 10 to 16.
After playing friendly matches they are gearing up to their first competitive game on January 14.
“We came across Elias when he joined our group and said he wanted to set up a team,” says Phil.
“We all thought it was a great idea. The profile of Huddersfield Town has increased across the world in the last few months since the Premier League status.
“In a lot of these countries the support is for Man United or Liverpool or the other top 10 clubs. It’s really refreshing to hear someone say that they like Huddersfield.”
After speaking with Elias, Phil informed his fellow Facebook group admins that the boys needed decent kit to be able to fulfil their dreams.
“Conditions in Clinetown, which is a suburb of Freetown, are pretty basic.” Phil said. “Some of the kids play barefoot. Others play in flipflops. And they play on quite hard ground. We decided to try and help them by providing better kit.”
Phil and his group have set up a collection point at PPG Canalside where spare football boots and trainers can be dropped off. They have been backed by staff at Town, which has donated football shirts for each team member, as well as Lynne Lolley-Robbins, mother of striker Joe Lolley , who has donated training strips, footballs and a trophy.
A crowdfunding page has been set up to raise money to buy shorts and socks and to cover the cost of shipping everything to Sierra Leone.
Phil, 45, who attends matches with sons Jamie, 14, and Joe, 17, added: “It makes us feel great that we can help. We all feel quite liberated by it - that we’re making a difference to somebody’s lives. We just hope that it makes them happy. Plus, it would be great to see them in blue and white!”
Huddersfield Town's retail manager Luke Cowan said: “This is a fantastic initiative from Phil and his family-friendly Facebook group; one that the club is happy to support with its donation. Everyone at Huddersfield Town hopes the campaign is a great success.”
To support the Crowdfunding page, visit https:// www.crowdfunder.co.uk/kits-for-huddersfield-fc-freetown/