Comedian Mark Watson and brother Paul are hoping to bring joy to disadvantaged children this festive season, with the gift of a donated football kit.
But former international football manager Paul and Mock the Week star Mark are hoping to change that.
The pair launched Kitmas last year, collecting second hand kits for kids who wouldn’t have received a Christmas present otherwise.
The grassroots project was set up as a response to financial pressures on families caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,
Last year, more than 1,000 football shirts were gifted to young football fans across the country, including many in London.
This year Mark, of east London, and Paul are hoping to make an even larger impact.
“I like to think that my purpose is to try to do some good through the sport,” Paul told LondonWorld.
The 37-year-old has dedicated most of his life to bringing communities together through football, having worked as a coach on a remote Pacific Island and set up a new football team in Mongolia.
He has spent the last 10 years sending football kits to refugee camps all over the world, from Ghana to Somalia and Zanzibar.
Last year, he decided to look closer to home.
“I had been sending some stuff to a refugee camp and someone very kindly gave me 10 pristine football shirts and asked me to give them to kids and unfortunately it’s not something you can just do at random,” he said.
“I thought the place that is most suitable for this is actually the UK, given the way that year had been and Christmas is always a very tough time for families, the pressure and the financial burden of it.
“Last year was worse than ever before, a lot of people had lost livelihoods and jobs.
“Initially I thought of giving them to a local food bank who gives out presents to children at Christmas.
“Then I thought let’s try and get to 100 shirts and then it kind of snowballed from there.
“We raised around £8,000 in the end.
“It was a really lovely feeling because it meant we could send the shirts to around 16 different community centres across the UK last year, from Belfast, to Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol, London, we went everywhere we could.
“When it came to this year we just really wanted to try it again and see what we could do.”
Research commissioned by City Hall, found that the withdrawal of the uplift will put 130,000 more Londoners into poverty, with some of the most disadvantaged groups, including 60,000 lone parents, being hardest hit.
“Whenever you do a project like this the need is always to go bigger because the need is just always there,” Watson continued.
“Last year, it was quite sobering in a way as you’re sending these kits to these community centres and they’re supporting families all year round and you’re just doing one small gesture.
“Some of these centres are supporting 300 families, which makes you think of the scale in this country of where people are struggling financially, the number of families who can’t afford to buy their children a Christmas present so the need is so huge.
“When you get quite into it you only see what you’re not doing.”
This year, the Watson brothers have a target of £10,000 to raise to buy brand new football shirts for kids all across the country.
Kitmas will also accept any football shirt in very good to “like new” condition
To help support the campaign, you can donate money, donate a kit or create your own Kitmas at your local football club.