Liverpool's Sadio Mane to send over 100 shirts to orphans in Malawi
LIVERPOOL, England -- Orphans in Malawi are set to receive over 100 Sadio Mane Liverpool shirts donated after the forward changed squad number in the summer.
Mane took up Liverpool's No. 10 jersey in July after it had previously been worn by Philippe Coutinho. Liverpool then offered supporters who had purchased Mane No. 19 shirts before the switch was announced the opportunity of a like-for-like exchange for a Mane No. 10 strip.
Those No. 19 shirts have now been gathered and handed to KitAid, who are working with Friends of Mulanje Orphans (FOMO) to distribute the kit to the underprivileged children in Malawi.
"It's like a dream for the children in the villages, getting a t-shirt that they never thought they would get," Mary Woodworth, founder of FOMO told ESPN FC. "It's just magical basically.
"Sadio Mane is from Africa, his name is just everywhere. To see the t-shirt of Sadio Mane will just be overwhelming.
"It will make a big difference, especially in the villages. Because they don't have the means of getting any money or to be able to buy one t-shirt. It's a dream come true [for them]."
KitAid is a charity that recycles unwanted football kits and then distributes them to some of the world's poorest countries.
On Saturday, ESPN FC attended one of their kit-sorting sessions at a church near Everton's Goodison Park, where over 2,200 pieces of kit were packed ahead of being sent to Africa.
"We have a saying, which is: 'It's more than just a shirt,'" founder Derrick Williams told ESPN FC. "And it really is because when you go out you see the kids that are desperate for football kit to be part of a team.
"We hear stories where if they haven't got kit then their team isn't allowed into a league, which is really heartbreaking. So it's great that we can provide that by working through organisations like FOMO in Malawi.
"We work through the whole football pyramid. So it's great that we get Everton, Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Watford helping us, but it's actually important that we're there as an outlet all the way down the pyramid.
"When I started KitAid 20 years ago, I would say 80 percent of kit came from grassroots. It's just shifted over the years since we've become a bit more well known, so it's probably 60 percent from the bigger clubs, 40 percent from the grassroots.
"But we saw it ourselves when we were out in Malawi, it doesn't matter if it's Liverpool, they're equally happy to receive the kit of a boys' team because it means they can participate in a proper league."
The late Graham Taylor, former England manager, was a patron for KitAid and helped remove barriers between the charity and professional clubs by writing to every kit manager in the top four tiers of English football.
Williams has examples that receiving football kits can have life-changing consequences.
"We sent some Man United kit to Kibera, Kenya, which is a massive slum," he said. "They used the kit and they selected 60 guys and trained them as coaches.
"They then went out into the Kibera slum and worked with gangs. They've got evidence that the gun-related deaths in that area where they worked have gone down.
"That's why we say: 'It's more than just a shirt.' A football shirt can play a part in stopping people from dying."