Long way from home

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TO THE casual observer it might have seemed recently that Arbroath Vics had gone to extra lengths with their away fixtures.

In fact, the distinctive red and black Arbroath Vics tops were being worn by Celtic United, the football team from the Brufut Basic School in the Gambia.

The story behind how a group of West African teenagers ended up looking like the Vics is an interesting one.

When Arbroath couple Stewart and Sandra Owbridge visited The Gambia in December 2011 they were inspired to help the impoverished African state as best they could.

Sandra said: “We befriended people there when we were out on holiday. We’re just trying to do that little bit to help.

“We were there last December for the first time and we’ve now been three times and have plans to go back next January.”

The couple have so far organised four car boot sale fund-raisers which they have used to directly help Gambians.

Sandra explained: “It’s actually on a personal level we’ve been helping. We befriended a gardener who worked at our hotel and we raised money to help that particular family.

“In the rainy season the compound where they live turns to mud so we raised £200 to allow them to concrete their compound.”

In addition money raised was used to buy socks and balls for the football team at the Brufut Basic School.

Sandra said: “Our reason for helping was because there was a policeman we got to know there. He ran the football team, and we always kept up with him.”

Sandra added: “My son, Ryan, plays for the Vics, he’s been there for two or three years now.

“We have friends there and have known Russell Ruxton and Willie Kidd who run the club for years. Willie actually suggested it to be honest. He said he was sure there were some unused kits they could give them.”

The Owbridges returned to the Brufut Basic School in January and presented Celtic United with their new strips who promptly entertained them with a game, which they won 3-0.

Sandra said: “They are very, very poor. After the game you could see some of them had holes in their socks. It was really quite humbling and they were so appreciative of the kits.”