As child poverty soars, Christmas is a worry for parents on low incomes across the UK. But comedian Mark Watson and his brother Paul, a journalist, are campaigning to make it a special one for disadvantaged children – with the gift of a Christmas football kit.
Through their Kitmas drive, pre-loved kits are being donated to go to grassroots community groups and kids who might not otherwise get a Christmas present this year. And through cash fundraising – their crowdfunder has nearly hit its £3,000 target in a matter of days – new kits are being bought too.
“I always remember how exciting it was to get a football shirt for Christmas as a kid,” Paul told The Big Issue. “This year is going to be really hard for a lot of families. If we can give that to a few children who wouldn’t get anything otherwise then that’s amazing.”
Donating football kits to deprived areas is not a new venture for Paul, who discovered the power of football in bringing communities together when he worked as a coach on a remote Pacific island (he wrote about his experience in book Up Pohnpei). Since then, he has worked with refugee organisations to send kit everywhere from Zanzibar to Somalia and Tibet.
“The pandemic made me think differently about what I do and how,” he said. “I realised I’ve been very global and might have neglected some of the need under my own nose. Like a lot of people, Covid-19 has narrowed my world, but in some positive ways. It has given people a clearer view of the community around them.
The Kitmas campaign asks that child-sized shirts be in good condition and simply be something a kid would love to wear. Paul has already been buying brand new kits with the donated money – resulting in a call about fraud from his bank – and is making sure every football shirt is something worth getting excited about.