Young footballers in West Africa will soon be pulling on the football shirts of a Vale of Clwyd club when they turn out for matches after a chance encounter in The Gambia.
Craig Morris, who manages the Lock Stock storage parks in Rhyl and Flint, has persuaded his bosses at Wales’s biggest self storage company to back his plan to kit out the Samtom Academy in donated Denbigh Town shirts.
He is also planning a fund-raising match for Denbigh Town Veterans against a Wrexham Legends side including former stars like Steve Watkin, scorer of the FA Cup winner against Arsenal back in 1992, Karl Connolly and Lee Trundle.
And with the backing of Lock Stock Director Shon Powell, chairman of Denbigh Town FC, he is already pulling together a selection of shirts, kit, balls and training equipment for the team from The Gambia.
Craig, 36, from Henllan, who was on Wrexham’s books as a youngster and played for both Ruthin and Denbigh, was in The Gambia in January with his wife, Carla, and six-year-old son Cohen.
He met Academy football coach Sam Lamin Njie and ended up helping out with coaching and he said: “It was one of the best experiences in the game I have ever had, coaching these kids.
“I was amazed by how much they respected the coach and listened to everything he had to say. He coached these kids five times a week for three hours a day.
“But what really got to me was that they had absolutely nothing, no kits, football boots, hardly any footballs, no cones, nothing.
“I played in a game where the referee used an old flip flop and an empty can of tuna as a whistle but the skill these kids had was unbelievable, it was a pleasure and an honour to be asked to train and play with them.
“It really touched my heart. After every session Sam would sometimes have well over 50 players aged six to 18 and he’d sit them down and give them all a good talking to about how important it is to love one another, respect people, help each other.
“Sam would not tolerate any of his players begging or stealing and begging in Africa is very common but he would not have it in his academy.
“The welcome and friendship the players showed me was amazing, something I will never ever forget, the high fives, fist bumps and smiles and laughter will be with me forever.”
Craig discovered that the club had lost their football kit when one of the players broke his leg and Sam carried him into a taxi, put the kit in the boot and set off for the hospital but when they arrived and carried the youngster in the taxi drove off with all the kit still in the boot.
Since then they hadn’t been able to play matches but Craig, who coaches Denbigh Town’s Development Squad, spoke to Lock Stock Director Shon and they came up with a plan to help Sam’s club out.
They contacted the Wrexham Legends and organiser Jon Morris has agreed to help out and Craig said: “I decided I would like to help them by trying to get them a new kit, cones and footballs so that they can all enjoy something once again.
“I will try and get sponsors and maybe organise a charity football match to raise some funds to buy equipment for them. I am in regular contact with Sam and have already booked to go back next February.”
Shon Powell founded Lock Stock Self Storage with his brother, Nick, in 1999 and it has now grown to be one of the UK’s largest containerised self storage companies with 2,900 containers at 18 sites across North and Mid Wales and the Border Counties.
As well as offering units to hire on their sites they sell a range of used and new containers delivered by their specialist lorry – they also sell fireworks at Chester, Rhyl and Llandudno and on-line.