There was a time when you would be hard-pushed to find someone wearing a Huddersfield Town shirt anywhere in Kirklees. Thanks to promotion to the Premier League, the appeal of the club has widened at home and abroad.
Specifically 3,205 miles south of Huddersfield in Freetown, the capital of West African country Sierra Leone. If you head down to the local football pitches in Freetown, chances are you’ll encounter a team of kids playing in Huddersfield Town kits.
Why are there Huddersfield Town fans in Sierra Leone?
If you have ever bought a Huddersfield Town match ticket online, you’ll be aware of the weekly marketing emails from the club informing you where you can watch Town at the weekend. Because the Premier League broadcasts to almost 200 countries, there’s barely a place on the planet where you can’t watch a Huddersfield Town game.
So it happens, Elias Bangura – a local kids coach in Freetown – was watching Huddersfield Town in Premier League action one weekend. Bangura was taken with the story of the Terriers and became a Huddersfield Town fan from afar.
What happened next?
Bangura was keen to get involved with the club in any way possible, and he did so by joining a Huddersfield Town family friendly group on Facebook. Upon joining the group Bangura shared his love of the Terriers with the other members and said that he was creating a kids football team which he would call ‘Huddersfield Freetown’.
This initial post was accompanied by a picture of Bangura’s team, and that caught the eye of the page’s administrator Phil Speight who noted that the orange kit the players were wearing was not in the best of condition, and it was definitely not blue and white.
With this in mind Speight began a campaign to raise funds and equipment for Huddersfield Freetown. The campaign was a huge success with generous Town fans donating training bibs, a trophy for best player and £400.
As well as that over 50 pairs of boots and trainers were donated, meaning that the kids no longer had to train in barefoot or flip-flops. Not content with the donations he had received, Speight contacted the club who were more than obliging in donating full kits and tracksuits.
Getting the donations to Sierra Leone
Phil Speight’s fundraising campaign for Huddersfield Freetown began in December 2017, but it wasn’t until August 2018 that the Sierra Leone club received the donations. Shipping bulky items over 3,000 miles to Africa is a tricky business, as the campaign organiser Phil Speight would find out.
It took him over 4 months to find a company prepared to ship the goods to Sierra Leone in May 2018. Once Jenkar Shipping had delivered the donations to Freetown, the struggle wasn’t over.
Speight had to battle with mounds of paperwork and red tape before the items could clear local customs and finally be delivered to Elias Bangura and Huddersfield Freetown in August 2018.
How has the fundraising campaign affected Huddersfield Freetown?
Kind donations from Speight, Huddersfield Town and members of the family friendly group have benefited Huddersfield Freetown enormously. On the pitch, performances have improved for the Sierra Leone club who briefly topped their league table in the run up to Christmas.
The improved training gear and footwear have benefited the team and the players, and there are now a group of dedicated Huddersfield Town fans on the west coast of the African continent.
Ahead of the new season in Sierra Leone, Freetown Terriers have a new coach and a renewed vigour to improve their performances. Two players have joined the team from more successful clubs in the league and the future looks bright for the once impoverished club.
Perhaps in the future some of the current Huddersfield Freetown squad could follow in the footsteps of fellow countryman Malvin Kamara and represent the West Yorkshire club.