The Glovers have a new fan in Africa after defender Bevis Mugabi was touched by the story of an inspirational Ugandan.
The 23-year-old Uganda international – born in England to Ugandan parents – was intrigued by the story of young Ugandan Thomas Kandwanaho, who has dedicated his life to helping the street boys in Kampala, the county's capital.
Veteran sports reporter, John Lukins, mentioned to manager Darren Way that his son, Julian, was working with Thomas in Kampala’s slums. Darren and Bevis were touched by Thomas’ mission in the slums and sent a goodwill gesture in the form of Bevis’ original number five shirt worn during a game last season.
“When I gave Thomas the shirt and he realised it was from a Uganda international, he was so excited,” Julian said. “I don’t think he took it off for a week. He wore it everywhere. People were asking him: ‘Where did you get that shirt?’ His face was just beaming.
“Ugandans are huge fans of English football and follow the Premier League like a religion. When Yeovil played Manchester United in the FA Cup, it was big. Very few people have a TV, so they all crowded into the cafes, pubs and betting shops to watch the game.”
Thomas, 26, knows what it’s like to live on the streets. He came to Kampala on his own at age 14 and slept under corrugated metal sheets and inside tractor tyres, scavenging to survive.
Now, he runs a mission to street boys providing emergency shelter, food, basic medical care, and encouragement. His goal is to help boys get off the streets and return home to their families whenever possible.
Most street boys are lucky to own a shirt, let alone an authentic English club jersey. Some who’ve lived on the streets for years wear only sackcloth or rags.
Commenting, Thomas uses Mugabi's shirt as a motivational tool: “The boys like my shirt,” he said. “But now they all want one! I tell them: 'Don’t give up. Keep going and maybe one day you will play for Yeovil Town'.”
The club will be sending more shirts to Thomas for the children he works with. If you'd like to donate a YTFC shirt to be sent, send them to Huish Park, Lufton Way, Yeovil, BA22 8YF or drop them off in person.