In Autumn 2003 Tony Griffiths, a member of the Reddish branch of the MCFC supporters club, retired from his job as a police officer in Manchester and moved to Sierra Leone in order to train their police force.
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an average life expectancy of 38. An 11 year civil war came to an end in 2000. There is a strong interest in football, particularly the Premier League, but Tony saw very few City shirts. Whilst living in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, Tony met a young businessman, Armani Sheku Kamara, who was hugely interested in Premier League football and gave him a City shirt.
On his return to the UK, Tony shared his story with other fans. Howard Burr and Alex Channon, who are respectively secretaries of the Reddish and Swinton branches, took interest in the cause. Together they collected up City shirts donated by generous fans. The group then asked the Club to get involved, who donated a full kit for the newly formed Manchester City Sierra Leone FC team in Freetown and their junior team.
In 2008 the Phuket branch of the MCFC Supporters Club donated a brand new home and away kit as the shirts from 2003 became a bit aged. On the 23rd November in the same year the youth team took part in the Sierra Leone F.A. Youth Cup final and won, after only four years of playing together.
One of the most prohibitive costs to the Sierra Leone team is transport to away games. To solve this problem the group decided to fundraise in order to buy a small coach. As well as providing transport the bus would be used throughout the week as a public bus in Freetown, employing two members of staff and creating enough revenue to keep the teams running.
Since then Tony and the team have worked enormously hard to collect both football equipment and money through a series of fundraising events, with support from the Club lead by Garry Cook and Paul Lake.
After a fantastic fundraising effort by hugely generous fans, the bus arrived in Manchester on July 12th. Whilst in storage in Ardwick sponsorship logos were applied free of charge by Barclay Signs in Stockport. On the 28th the bus was loaded in to a container with six pallets of kit, training gear, laptops, books and bikes, amongst a huge range of other memorabilia. The container began its long journey and eventually arrived in Sierra Leone on August 31st.