Percy Hutchful was a torchbearer at the 2012 Olympics for his services to sport
The Battersea football coach’s employers, John Lewis in Oxford Street, had nominated him after he passed five different coaching qualifications in two years – and coached scores of children in the Beautiful Game.
The 56-year-old grandfather from Thornton Heath, who now trains retail staff for a living, has been drilling kids in football skills for five years.
But three years ago he was troubled by the boots which he would regularly see lying around discarded on Battersea Park’s pitches.
He was also struck by the contrast in Ghana, where he went to school, and where boys regularly kicked a football around dusty streets in bare feet or holey shoes.
So the former welfare worker, who regularly returns there to see his parents and family, has started to collect the discarded footwear and pay for them to be shipped out to West Africa.
There they are gratefully received by the scratch teams who have kickabouts on the scarce flat spaces of the Ghanaian capital, Accra.
And he is appealing for other people to collect old boots so he can send more to Western Africa and give young boys – and adults – a better chance to enjoy a less painful kickabout.
Percy said: “I have set up a charity called letthekidsplay, designed to supply used football kits, boots and footballs to disadvantaged children in Ghana to help them play and make them feel included. That is much easier with the right kit.
“I have family there and had seen boys playing wherever they could – some with boots and some without.
“It is said about two million pairs of shoes are thrown away in the UK every year and I am using this opportunity to aid children from Ghana to participate in a sport they love.
“Last year I took over 100 pairs of boots and lots of kit to Ghana – a team called Peace United, who I had coached while on holiday three years before. They put on a tournament and I ran some workshops.
“I would now like to appeal to the local community to send in any old boots, kits, footballs and shin pads. I could organise collections.
“I have funded all the shipping costs as I want the community to see how close this work is to my heart.
“The aim is to grow and support a further two teams next year and these have been identified. I am also in the process of starting up new teams in Tamale and Cape Coast.”