East Devon couple in football kit plea for kids in Africa

PUBLISHED: 09:47 15 September 2016 | UPDATED: 10:08 15 September 2016

Jan pictured with some of the children during her last trip to Tanzania.

Jan pictured with some of the children during her last trip to Tanzania.

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An East Devon couple are hoping to bring some smiles to the faces of teenage villagers in the depths of Africa.

Pete and Jan Hardy, from Lympstone, are appealing to East Devon football teams to let them have any old team shirts so they can help set up a league between five African villages in deepest Tanzania.

The couple are setting off for their second trip to Western Tanzania to stay at the holiday island of Lupita on Lake Tanganyika. Close to the island are fishing communities where village life has gone unchanged for centuries.

The families live a very frugal existence but soccer plays a huge part in the lives of the children.

Apart from visitors to the island, the locals rarely see outsiders.

Now the British couple who run the island have asked Pete and Jan to help them set up a local football league and hope they can bring out some shirts in their luggage allowance.

Whichever team donates will have their name directly linked to one of the African villages. Ideally the shirts would fit teenagers.

Jan said: “A shirt or a pair of shoes means so much to these people. They have nothing and yet they are always smiling.

“The children are lovely and it would be so good to see them in matching team strips playing a proper game.”

Belinda Lithgow, the manager and part owner of Lupita, explained that it is a private island of 130 acres, five kilometres from the mainland at the Southern end of Lake Tanganyika.

She said: “It’s an incredibly beautiful area full of biodiversity, wonderful people living in small fishing villages scattered around the fringes of the lake. There are barely any tourists. It’s a yet to be discovered location. No wifi or any of the conveniences of the modern world.

“However, the passion for a lot of the young men is still football. They know the English football teams and follow their favourite teams when they can by listening to radios and the rare occasion when they can watch a match from a shop in one of the bigger towns three hours away.

Belinda has built up a unique relationship with a lot of the surrounding villages and wants to start up a simple football league between the islands.

She added: “Excitement for this venture is palpable. At this stage we are looking at putting together five teams one of which will be Lupita Island staff.

“Most of the men from the surrounding villages are simple fishermen who make their living from the lake. Money is a rare commodity as employment is hard to find, so people live by bartering or growing their own food. For a village to have their own team with their own football kit would be a real achievement.

The couple leave for Tanzania on October 4 and they are asking any teams that can help to call them on 07739 626078 or 01395 488 123.

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