How the idea came about
When my brother was on a business trip in Ghana in 2006 he told me about the love Ghanians have for the English Premier League. He told stories of how children and adults wear replica football shirts of all the big teams in Europe such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Liverpool and Arsenal. He told me that if I ever visit, I should take any old football shirts and give them to the children of Ghana.
I saw an advert many years later about a charity which was set up to do just that. When I was thinking about where to go on my next holiday I decided that I would hand deliver my Bolton Wanderers football shirts myself. That was when I booked my flight and packed my backpack with every shirt I had ever bought as a Bolton fan.
Welcome to Africa
Upon arrival in Ghana I carried my football shirts with me everywhere I went, and promised myself that I wouldn’t leave Ghana until I had distributed them to people the who I thought would enjoy them like I had over the years. On my travels I gave a few shirts away, one to a hotel beach lifeguard who every day prepared me a sun lounger and spoke to me about football whilst warning me of the dangers of the tides.
I gave one to a boy I met in the centre of Accra who taught me about the local area which I was visiting, he said he was a student and worked at the national football stadium and was far away from his family who were in the north of Ghana. This boy got my Bolton shirt with Campo on the back from 2003-05.
@IDONATEDUK Hi Gareth,i was reading your history and i saw the picture of CHILDREENS WITH BOLTON SHIRTS. Its absolutly fantástic !!!!!
— Ivan Campo (@ivan_campo) January 28, 2013
Distributing the shirts
I was coming to the end of my trip and I still had about 13 shirts left to distribute. This was when I came across a local Ghanian football team in Accra. I watched the final moments of a football tournament taking part at a school. The teams had coaches, there were referees and the whole thing almost looked organised.
After the game I had a chat with the coach and asked if he would like the rest of my football shirts to give to the players who he thinks try the hardest for the team. As a white man in Ghana, many of the children surrounded me during this moment. Once they knew what was happening they began to clap their hands and shake my hand. Never have I felt so appreciated in all my life. To this day it remains one of the best moments of my life.