Booting up the future for Swazi soccer youth
By Mary Dennehy
MORE than 150 pairs of used soccer boots are this week leaving Tallaght on a 10,000km journey to sub-Saharan Africa, where they will be donated to some of Swaziland’s most talented but boot-less soccer stars.
In July, Aylesbury resident Aidan O’Neill (35) travelled to Swaziland in an attempt to tell the story of the country’s fight against paediatric HIV and AIDS – with almost 600 children in sub-Saharan Africa born with HIV every day.
Still working alongside communities in Swaziland, Aidan plans to tell their story through a series of international photographic exhibitions in 2016 and is also raising funds through his charity ArtAid.World – while raising awareness that the transmission of paediatric HIV and AIDS is preventable.
During his travels to various orphanages and clinics, Aidan attended a youth community football tournament – which he claims restored his faith in soccer.
However, Aidan noticed that many of the team members played barefoot, with odd and worn boots left around the pitch for those striking.
After appealing to communities in South Dublin County for second-hand boots or kits, a special consignment of football gear is on its way to Swaziland this week.
Aidan’s mam Ann O’Neill, who lives in Aylesbury and has been looking after the collection here in Dublin with her husband Tommy O’ Neill, said: “We just can’t believe how generous people have been.
“In just over a month, we received more than 150 pairs of boots, many of which are like new, two full team kits, with jerseys, shorts and socks, and a local printing firm also donated tee-shirts and caps with ArtAid.World printed on them.”
She added: “Individuals and businesses have been amazing and somebody has also come forward to assist us with shipping.
“These boots will make such a difference to the children and young people in the communities that Aidan has visited, they are so grateful for everything they get and the boots and kits will be put to great use and valued for a very long time – and all thanks to the generosity of people here in Tallaght and its surrounding communities.”
A fundraising event for ArtAid.World is also taking place on Sunday, November 15, when a charity walk will take off from Thomas Davis GAA Club at 2pm and travel through the Bohernabreena Reservoir before returning to Thomas Davis for some live session music and a monster raffle.
For further details on the event, which is open to the entire community, call or text 087 7507519.
To follow Aidan’s journey visit www.artaid.world, where he regularly post images and information. An option to donate to the charity is also available on the charity’s site.