Boots for Africa

One Dubai school boy took charity into his own hands. We meet him and discuss his football-mad scheme

Education

Michael Misselhorn is a lucky young man. He gets a top-notch education at GEMS Wellington International School and spends most of his free time playing football with his friends. Each July, he escapes Dubai’s blistering heat and heads for the fresh chill in southern Africa to go quad biking, fishing and to play more footie at his grandparents’ beach-side home in Swakopmund, Namibia.

It’s a far cry from the lives of his teammates in the Swakopmund kick-abouts who, living close to the poverty line, often play without socks or boots. But Michael’s football-booted feet are planted firmly on the ground. ‘I play loads of football here and in Swakopmund,’ he tells Time Out. ‘All the players there play barefoot.

It can be really cold in Namibia and sometimes you can’t see 10 metres in front of you because it’s really foggy.

They don’t complain, though. They’re just happy to be playing.’ But the Liverpool fan wasn’t so happy about it. Rummaging in his kit, he found a pair of boots that were too small for him, but still perfectly good. He decided that, instead of just grumbling about the injustice of it all, he could actually make a difference.

Michael approached his parents and school for advice on how to get his ‘Boots for Africa’ idea off the ground. Very soon, he was standing in front of a packed assembly hall appealing for help. He adds: ‘I laid out boxes in the school for people to put their boots in – not new boots, just any old boots, anything they weren’t using any more or had grown out of.’

In the space of three weeks, Michael had collected 50 pairs – more than enough to kit out the Swakopmund FC youth team, and young players in a nearby settlement.

Poor old dad was handed the task of lugging the boots from Dubai to Namibia. But it was worth it, as Michael tells: ‘There was a small boy who was a huge Arsenal fan. He had really small feet, but we managed to find him some boots and socks, and when we found him an Arsenal shirt, you should’ve seen the smile on his face.’

Gerald Guther, sport and recreation officer at Swakopmund Municipality says, ‘He [Michael] sure has put a lot of smiles on some of the talented youngsters.’ Michael’s school is also incredibly proud.

‘In general, it’s very important that students realise how lucky they are and how they can support children who are disadvantaged,’ says Jason King, head of secondary at Wellington International School. ‘He’s a bright lad, he’ll be successful.

From a school’s perspective we’re really proud of what he did – it’s a reflection of the school’s values – but we’re equally proud of him as a person.’

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