Rob and Ryan’s fairytale Wrexham takeover inspires football-mad African youngsters

Pendine Park ; Emma Roberts , Mario Kreft and Gareth Kelly. Picture Mandy Jones

Football mad youngsters in an African village have been inspired to make their own Wrexham AFC kits by the club’s fairytale rebirth and the kindness of two philanthropists.

They have even named their team Wrexham Kenya, according to Wrexham lawyer Gareth Kelly who has visited the region close to the north-east coast of the vast Lake Victoria along with Mario Kreft MBE, owner of the Wrexham and Caernarfon-based Pendine Park care organisation.

The two of them first visited Bondo in the East Asembo region in 2012 and since then have become involved in helping the local community with Gareth, a Director of law firm Gittins McDonald, setting up a charity, the Aunty Lizmo Foundation, in conjunction with local woman Liz Agutu.

So far they have overseen the drilling of a borehole to provide a clean water supply for the community and most recently plans have been submitted for a school, which at Gareth’s insistence is to be named the Pendine Academy.

They were also struck by the home-made Wrexham football kit the local team had made and have since donated a number of football shirts to the community as well as a huge number of Wrexham match programmes which Racecourse season ticket-holder Gareth had collected.

He said news of the Wrexham takeover by Hollywood A-listers Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds had caused a lot of excitement in the Kenyan village where the young footballers were showing a lot of talent and potential.

Gareth added: “In the meantime, we’re waiting for approval for the school which will be for 250 pupils and we are sorting out an electricity supply for the village which we’ll also need for the school.

“When I first went there their only source of fresh water was a small lake which was used as a watering hole by animals and an immediate effect of the borehole was that school absences were down by 80 per cent because local people now had clean water to drink and didn’t have to trek miles to collect it.

“The lake was rife with disease and the people had no water purification tablets but giving them clean water has made such a difference to them.

“Now the village is the only place in Africa with a Welsh flag permanently flying there.

“Lis took me to a mud hut and inside were three orphan children sleeping on the floor – their parents had died of AIDS but those kids are now going to school because the Foundation pays for them.

“The first thing they found in school was that they had something called breakfast which they had never had before. Tina, ten years old, had never had ice cream before.

“I was telling them about Wrexham and the football club and I took a load of football programmes and some Wrexham shirts.

“They love hearing about Wrexham’s success after the takeover by Rob and Ryan and they made their own shirts and painted them red and called themselves Wrexham Kenya.

“We took them some trainers too because they had been playing barefoot – that’s why there are so many talented African footballers because they learn the hard way.

“Africa has always been exploited by the West and still is but they’re lovely people and it’s a privilege to be out there and to be able to do something for them.”

According to Gareth, he had received great support from friends Mario and Gill Kreft of Pendine Park whose backing is being channelled via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust which supports arts and community-based activities.

Now their own social care ethos is taking root in Kenya where they had already funded an orphanage in the north of the country and Mario, who was born in Africa, has funded the new school in Bindi.

He said: “We introduced Gareth and his family to Africa in 2012 and he has well and truly caught the Africa bug and it was his insistence that the school be called the Pendine Academy.

“He has also been the driving force behind the borehole because if you can’t drink clean water what can you do?

“Now we would also like to see that school, which will cater for a range of ages, provide a background in care for its pupils.

“There is a social care link here because a great deal of English is spoken in Kenya and we have been developing ideas for social care at our training academy in Wrexham and Caernarfon.

“We can share this knowledge at the Pendine Academy to help people look after their disabled and older people who are revered in Kenya and we have sector-leading practice we have developed in North Wales which we can pass on to them.

“This place of learning will be dedicated to our late colleague and dear friend Michele May and in her memory, will inspire, educate and empower young people long into the future.”

Mario added: “Our friends over in Kenya in return have been flying the Welsh flag and getting behind our amazing local football team, Wrexham AFC, who are now famous across the globe.

“Team Kenya have industriously been making  Wrexham trophies out of gourds  it’s lovely to see they are wearing Wrexham AFC-inspired football kits that they made themselves.”

Diehard Wrexham fan Emma Roberts, who works at the Pendine Academy in Wrexham, is thrilled that the club’s success is inspiring young footballers in Kenya and she said: “It’s just incredible that the club is now a worldwide success.

“I’ve supported them for 30 years and go to every game along with my grandad, Tony Williams, who is now 87 and has been watching them since the 1940s.

“It is also pretty amazing that we’ve now also got a Pendine Academy in Kenya.”

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