AN APPEAL to help poverty-stricken footballers thousands of miles away has out-stripped all expectations.
Kind-hearted fans collected more than 500 Sunderland strips, which are now being packaged up and sent to Kenya.
The campaign started at the beginning of the year after Black Cats devotee Gary SAFC Lamb came across the Facebook page of Sunderland AFC Keroche.
The club began to follow the Wearside team after Africans Asamoah Gyan and John Mensah signed for the squad.
Its players face walking great distances to reach fixtures and issued a plea for equipment and cash to secure their future and cover the cost of transport and hosting games.
Now Gary and a number of other supporters have seen more than 500 tops, more than 100 pairs of football boots and piles of socks, shorts and shin guards boxed up and sent to the village, which is in the Rift Valley Province.
The packages have been sent thanks to the backing of Sunderland AFC’s sponsor Tombola, with enough of last season’s strip sent over so that, like their Premier League namesake, the Kenyan team can also bear the company logo on their chest as they take to the pitch.
Sponsors have also put up £2,100 to help the club or support specific players.
Lorry driver Gary, 50, from Seaham, said: “It’s just been unbelievable.
“Any expectations I had when we started off asking just disappeared.
“We want to keep on doing it and keep the sponsorship going. I doesn’t matter whether donations are large or small, it’s all helping.”
In addition to general costs, the money will also cover the price of extras including half-time fruit and sports drinks.
Sponsors have included businesses and individuals whose hearts have been won by the team’s plight.
Gary and others are considering visiting the village in about a year’s time. A meeting will be held at 1pm in the Wheatsheaf in Monkwearmouth on Saturday – the day before Sunderland take on Newcastle away - to discuss plans.
Gary added: “Anyone who is interested in coming can join in the meeting.
“We’ll be looking at the fixture list and try and work out when we can get out there for a match because their season runs differently to ours.”
Anyone who would like more information can contact Gary on 07880 732 078.