For 12 years, Gambinos FC, one Gambian football team in Mandinary, has become a slice of Stirling – all due to a chance encounter with a Causewayhead man.
Bill Gillespie visited the West African country back in 2009 for his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife, Janet. After building up a rapport with a local team in the village of Mandinary, he has been supporting them with kits and football equipment ever since.
The club has since changed its name to Gambinos FC in honor of Bill’s beloved Stirling Albion. The club and its supporters have supplied Binos kits to the club’s various academies squads.
But with Covid presenting a fresh challenge for the locals in the village, Bill is joining up with the Albion squad, staff, directors, and fans alike for a special fundraising climb of Dumyat on September 26 to supply hot meals for around 120 Gambinos players.
Bill said: “Over the last couple of years, we’ve obviously had Covid, and while it’s been bad enough here, over there, it hasn’t been so bad because of the heat.
“But the travel and tourism industry has just completely died, and in the village where the Gambinos play, around 70 percent of people work in the tourism sector, so people are going hungry.”
He went on: “Albion helped me out a bit at the start of the pandemic and raised about £1700, and we donated that to the Gambinos, sending over about £200 a month for food which got distributed between families until the money was made.
“It lasted about six or seven months, but things have still got worse, and so I approached Albion chairman Stuart Brown at the club to see what we could do, and that’s how the idea of the hill climb came about.
“It’s being run by the first team physio Kenny Crichton, and we’re hoping to raise a quite substantial amount to be able to give everyone in the academy one hot meal per day.
“The Gambinos are a wee slice of Forthbank over there, and Stuart has been great in really making them a part of the club, and we’ve had many collections from fans over the years who have been fantastic.”
Among those confirmed for the climb – named ‘Binos Feeding Binos’ – include Albion manager Kevin Rutkiewicz, some members of the first-team squad, and physio Kenny.
Bill added: “We can all go up dressed in our Albion tops, and it’s really well organized so far; we’ve got Highland Spring providing some water, so we’re just hoping to get a good number heading up.
“I’ve got some kit from the Albion and training equipment to send over as well, so to send that over and get them something to eat will cost about £800, but it would be great to give these kids a bit of normality and something to look forward after such a tough time.”