BLACK Cats fans are gearing up for the Wear-Tyne derby – thousands of miles away in a remote African village.
Sunderland AFC Keroche, in Kenya, adopted the Premier League club after high-profile players from the continent made the switch to Wearside.
However, the team, also known as the Black Panthers, is worlds apart from its English counterpart, with first-team players walking up to 10 miles to reach a match and donating what money they can from their low-paid wages to cover the cost of fixtures.
Now, after turning in a top performance against their own local rivals, the players are counting down the days to the Sunderland-Newcastle match at the Stadium of Light.
Gary Lamb, from Seaham, came across the team on Facebook and has launched a series of appeals to boost its kit and coffers.
“The team are planning to meet up in a hotel and watch the match live on TV,” said the lorry driver. “It’s a really big event, just like over here. They’ll be cheering on the team like the rest of us.”
The team, which is based in Karai, a village in the Rift Valley, recently drew 1-1 with New Hope FC in the crunch Naivasha derby, a match billed as their league’s own “Tyne-Wear Derby”.
“They almost won, but they gave a goal away in the last couple of minutes,” said Gary. “They were gutted.”