'It’s what he would have wanted' - the late Sunderland fan whose beloved shirts will go to a Covid-hit community in Africa

Just amazing! That’s the Sunderland fans who have come forward in force to help villagers in a Covid-hit African community.

Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 4:55 am

Organisers are delighted with the response after we told the story of the Kenyan village which is red-and-white crazy.

We asked readers to donate unwanted Sunderland shirts so they could be worn by the fans of the Sunderland AFC Keroche football team which plays in the village of Karai.

What a response there was. One man in Staffordshire donated an entire collection of 52 shirts.

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Jo Copeland who has donated her late husband's SAFC shirts to Sunderland AFC Keroche in Kenya.

Others gave everything from shirts to a hat because they ‘just wanted to do their bit to help’, said appeal organiser Gary Lamb

Gary had 12 calls from Sunderland fans in two days after the story appeared in the Echo. He had to arrange collections from Wearside to southern England to collect all the shirts.

“We had one lady who gave us a red and white bobble hat because she felt like she wanted to do something for us.

"Another person gave us a full set of kits which was the kit which was used by the Wearmouth Colliery FC – where the stadium is now.

Jo Copeland with one of the shirts which belonged to her late husband Bob.

"All this came from the Echo article. This is thanks to the Echo and the numerous people who got in touch.”

Jo Copeland, 80, made perhaps the most poignant donation. She gave up four Sunderland shirts which belonged to her late husband Bob who died aged 73 in 2019.

"It’s what he would have wanted,” said Jo who was married to Bob for more than 50 years.

Jo added: “Whenever Bob would see something about the people of Africa on the TV he would say ‘those poor young ones’. He would have tears in his eyes.”

Sunderland fan Bob Copeland who passed away aged 73 in 2019.

Mother of two and grandmother of three Jo had been waiting for the right cause to donate the shirts to.

Bob supported Sunderland all his life and was an electrician in his working days. Jo added: "The shirts have gone to a good home. Bob would be over the moon.”

Sunderland AFC Keroche football team was established in 2012 and relies on donations from SAFC fans.

Bob Copeland.

It started as a group of football loving young men but they had no kit, no boots, and no pitch. They took the name of Sunderland into their title because their manager was a Black Cats fan.

It has progressed to become a side with a fan base of between 3,000 and 4,000 supporters and the team has reached 22 cup finals in the last 9 years and also been promoted to the National Division 2.

Gary Lamb, from Seaham, is president of Sunderland AFC Keroche which he originally founded with John Eilbeck.

He said the area has been hit hard by the pandemic and wants to help all the fans who would ‘love to be wearing the famous Sunderland colours’.

To donate a shirt, hat or scarf contact Gary on 07880 732078.

People can also visit the website here.

The Sunderland AFC Keroche team.

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Sunderland AFC Keroche with one of their many trophies.