Sheffield United’s fan base is on the rise in Africa after two Sheffield donated old football shirts to an Ethiopian orphanage.
Sheffield University students Fred Simon and Jonathan Cunliffe, from Crookes, took the shirts with them on a research trip for their medical degree.
And they said the children at the El Shadai orphanage, near Mekelle, in northern Ethiopia, were overwhelmed with their gifts and have vowed to wear them in their weekly matches against staff.
Fred, a Blades season ticket holder, said: “I contacted the Sheffield United marketing team with the hope of creating a generation of Ethiopian Blades and allowing these football-mad children who would never otherwise be able to buy a football shirt to be the proud owners of one of the greatest football shirts in Europe.
“They were thrilled with them. They pulled off their tatty old T-shirts and ran to get footballs to get their first games of football in an official strip under way.
“United provided 20 old shirts, enough for two full teams, one for a girls team and one for the boys.
“These children have nothing, not even their own clothes, everything is shared and in short supply.
“These shirts may well be the best presents they ever get.
“The children were delighted. It was a dream come true for them. We are so grateful to United for their generosity and such remarkable willing to donate their kit.”
Fred and Jonathan, both aged 22, are spending seven weeks conducting medical research into maternal health as part of their degree, visiting a rural health centre and a school for the visually impaired.
Fred, who is originally from Middlesborough, said: “We are in Mekelle, the capital of a mountainous region in the north of the country.
“It has just more than five million people, 4.2 million of which live in rural areas and 45 per cent of whom are under the age of 15.
“Despite huge improvements in its maternal health Ethiopia still remains one of the most dangerous place in the world to be a mother.”