Footie shirts gift for cup city poorest

4:00pm Saturday 1st February 2014

MOST people are excited about the 2014 World Cup to see England’s fate, but an Oxford City coach has another reason.

Abingdon man Mark Heelis is heading to Brazil in the summer — not just to watch the action — but to give out football shirts to the poor.

Teaming up with international charity Kits4Causes, Mr Heelis is hoping to collect more than 200 shirts to take with him to São Paulo, the country’s largest city.

He had the idea after going to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The 32-year-old said: “I took a handful of my football shirts along and gave them to a local charity called Soweto Kliptown Youth (SKY).

“The children over there don’t have much access to equipment, so when I knew England were going to Brazil I thought I could take it one step further — instead of taking five shirts, I could try to take as many as I could.”

As well as being easier to transport than footballs or kit bags, Mr Heelis explained that shirts are an easy and instant way to connect with people.

He said: “Shirts are the first thing all football supporters tend to collect.

“You feel like you are part of a team, it gives you an opportunity to bond and makes a massive difference when breaking down cultural barriers.”

Chris Grindley, director of Kits4Causes, said: “It’s great that Mark is going out there — we’ve wanted to work in Brazil for years.

“Football is a universal language, and to be able to provide the kit is brilliant.”

A coach at Oxford City Football Club and an Environment Agency employee, Mr Heelis hopes local people will help.

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