The J.League’s ‘Supporter Uniforms for Smile’ initiative began in 2011, and up until last year 4,227 shirts had been distributed to children in less fortunate circumstances in seven countries around Asia.
Earlier this year more uniforms were delivered to the Polynesian island of Tuvalu, while this month and last the ninth and 10th allocations were sent, this time to Europe and Africa.
At the start of September, in co-operation with the Sports Association of the City of Mostar, JICA, and the NPO ‘Little Bridge’, the first shipment arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The nation suffered well documented troubles after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and with the aim of using sports to help restore harmony Little Bridge and the ‘Mali Most Foundation’ – which was founded in part by former Japan national team captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto – the Mostar Sports Centre was repaired and re-opened in 2016.
On the morning of 6 September shirts were given to children from four local elementary schools, before eight local teams – including that of Mali Most – received shirts in the afternoon and played games alongside former Nagoya Grampus and JEF United Chiba player Kei Yamaguchi.
The next day 76 shirts were given to middle school students from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia who were taking part in a homestay and culture exchange programme.
More shirts then completed their journeys to Africa in October, where they were distributed to children in Senegal.
The first destination was a village in northern Senegal, which sits on the west coast of Africa, where shirts were distributed to elementary school students.
More were then handed out to children in two more villages in the north-west of the country in the following days, while a ceremony organised with the backing of JICA and attended by the Japanese Ambassador to Senegal and the Head of Senegal’s Department of Education was also carried out, at which both the Senegalese and Japanese national anthems were sung.
Children in both countries were delighted to receive the shirts, which had been kindly donated by fans from all around Japan, and they shared many smiles as they played in their new colours.