There was quite an unusual Merseyside derby recently, far away from the chilly north of England and the fanfare of the Premier League. You’d be forgiven for not recognising the team sheets for this Everton Liverpool clash.
The background to this game is a fire in the township of Imizamo Yethu which sits on the hillside of Hout Bay in the Western Cape, South Africa. In March, a fire ripped through the township, destroying the homes of thousands of people, leaving them homeless and many with no alternative accommodation. The former residents are currently housed in giant tents next to the pitch that Hout Bay United, the local football team, play on. Several of the Hout Bay United first team players lost everything in the fire. Unfortunately they also lost their football boots, just at a time when the team are pushing for promotion. Any footballer looking to play at the top of their game will know just how important good boots can be; it doesn’t matter what level you’re at.
And this is where the story of the alternative Merseyside derby was born. The head of Corporate Social Responsibility at the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), John Hudson, approached (the real!) Liverpool FC in the UK and told them about the fire in Hout Bay. Upon hearing the story, the Liverpool first team agreed to donate their boots to the team. As if that wasn’t enough, both Everton and Liverpool donated a complete team strip each, meaning Hout Bay United were about to be kitted out head to toe in boda fide Premier League players’ kit. Our Head of Partnerships, Jane Carter, was there to hand over the donation, and said “these were received with a mixture of disbelief and joy!”
In the match that followed Everton won on penalties – quite a change from the Premier League Everton’s record at Anfield – but the true winner was solidarity in times of crisis. The atmosphere at the game and from everyone at the club showed a determination that Imizamo Yethu’s young people would not be deterred, and would continue playing, learning and developing.
You can also read about the trip on the PFA’s website https://www.thepfa.com/news/2017/4/1/the-pfa-and-tackle-africa-visit-hout-bay