A former lioness has told how enriching it is to see “unbridled joy” on the faces of disadvantaged children after they started a project to give young football fans an England shirt as a gift.
England beat Germany to win the Euro 2022 title as they were cheered on by 87,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
Defender and coach Anita Asante, who has won 71 caps for her national team, set up GoFundMe and has partnered with organizations Football Beyond Borders and Goals4Girls, bringing shirts to 55 girls across the country so far.
“It’s enriching to see young people happy and to see that unbridled joy on their faces,” Ms Asante, 37, told the PA news agency.
“That’s what kids should be able to experience — to connect with something they enjoy and care about.
“Football is also about tribalism – people like to feel that their club represents them and that they are part of a bigger community, bigger than themselves… And I think that’s what a jersey is sometimes can do for you.”
Ms Asante and her partner of three years, Beth Fisher, 39, first set up GoFundMe on May 26 after seeing a shirt can cost between £50 and £100.
The fundraiser now has donations totaling over £8,500 from members of the public and a contribution of £1,000 from the team at GoFundMe.
The pair have worked to source kits for up-and-coming footballers from local teams and clubs who otherwise “might not have been able to afford the kit”.
A tweet from Football Beyond Borders, a charity that works with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, shows video of a young girl, Oninye, screaming as she opens her new England shirt.
Ms Asante, who is now first-team coach at Bristol City Women’s Football Club, explained that her own experience as a football hopeful was part of the inspiration behind the fundraiser.
“For me, it made me think back to my childhood and the first time I put on a football jersey,” Ms. Asante said.
“I played football for a club and then played for England when I was young and it was the first time I put on an England shirt because I had never bought a shirt before.
“I just know how it feels to put on those shirts and represent at club level and also as an international player.
“The feeling it gives you is amazing to play but also to support a team you are passionate about.”
Most of the T-shirts have gone to young girls so far, but Ms Asante and Ms Fisher hope to give them to boys too.
“The tournament has really created this powerful cultural shift where boys see female athletes at the highest level and it becomes their norm,” said Ms. Asante.
“They’re dealing with it in a really positive way.
“And of course there will be boys who may also come from disadvantaged backgrounds and would also be happy to have a shirt.”
Ms Asante described being “shocked” by the public’s donations.
“To see the power of collective action in public is so positive,” she said.
“I was almost shocked by that.”
Ms Fisher added: “It’s really important that sport isn’t just for people who can afford it.
“That’s the good thing about sport – it’s for everyone… I certainly cried a lot.”
The project has garnered online support from a host of famous faces, including retweets from Line of Duty’s Vicky McClure and former England goalkeeper David Seaman.
Ms Asante said she was “overwhelmed with emotion” as she watched England win on Sunday.
“I had tears in my eyes, I cried, I jumped up and down,” she said.
It’s a historic moment for women’s footballFormer lioness Anita Asante on England’s Euro win
“This is a historic moment for women’s football and the level of support and visibility has been just incredible – across the media, across podcasts, but also the nation has really got behind the England team.
“And for me as a player who’s been in a final before and lost, it was just incredible to see them achieve that momentous thing and something I don’t necessarily envision at this point in the development of women’s football could.
“I think that inspires and also empowers a lot of young people to be ambitious and to believe that maybe one day they can work hard to take themselves to the highest level of professional football if that’s where they want to be.”
For more information on Ms. Asante and Ms. Fisher’s GoFundMe go to: www.gofundme.com/my-england-shirt-raffle
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/former-lioness-fundraises-to-gift-england-shirts-to-disadvantaged-children-41886390.html Former Lioness fundraises to gift England shirts to disadvantaged children