Football fans are being encouraged to donate kits this Christmas as presents for children whose families cannot afford them.
Kitmas, run by husband-and-wife pair Paul and Lizzie Watson, from Stroud, is now in its second year and is collecting shirts and cash donations again after distributing 1,000 kits to disadvantaged kids in the UK last Christmas.
Mr Watson told PA: “Everyone who is lucky enough to receive one as a kid, you really remember how exciting it was to get given a football shirt.
“I think it really did what we wanted it to do and made some kids’ Christmases feel a bit more special.”
The scheme came out of work Mr Watson was doing with refugee charities overseas last year.
After receiving a donation of 10 kits which could not be sent to refugee camps, Mr Watson decided to distribute them domestically instead via foodbanks.
“We contacted initially just our local foodbank in Stroud and said ‘is this something you’d be able to distribute for us?’ and they were really enthusiastic.
“So we said, ‘well, what if we could get 100 shirts?’ and then it sort of snowballed and became in the end 1,000 of them which we gave out via 16 community groups around the UK.”
Distributing the shirts “became more complicated than we could have thought”, Mr Watson said, because of the sensitivity around club affiliations in certain areas.
“If you send Liverpool kits to Liverpool, you’re going to get a lot of Everton fans and it’s quite hard for the community groups to distribute, it’s quite labour intensive,” Mr Watson said.
“So we primarily focus on what we call neutral kits, which is kits any kid would be happy to get which don’t cause any kind of controversy like a Barcelona kit or Real Madrid kit.”
Mr Watson’s route to footballing charities was a circuitous one.
In 2012 he released a book called Up Pohnpei, which charted his journey to become manager of the football team of an island in Micronesia, an idea which came out of his work on a documentary about the world’s worst teams.
From there he became involved in a number of football-based causes around the world, in which he continues to take part.
He and his wife had support in the Kitmas project last year from his brother, comedian Mark Watson, who is “very much involved” and has been “brilliant” in helping to promote the cause.
This year, they hope to at least match and hopefully better last year’s total of 1,000 shirts.
Fans can help out by either donating money via their crowdfunding page, or sending a shirt to a PO Box address also listed on the page.
“We always stress that they should need to be in excellent condition,” Mr Watson said.
“Because a football shirt is something aspirational and because it’s a Christmas present, you don’t want children to feel like they’re a charity cause and it’s really nice to give them something that at least looks new.”
To find out more go to crowdfunder.co.uk/kitmas
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