Over $178,000 has been raised by Manchester United Foundation and local charity Telethon, who formed a partnership ahead of Tour 2019, to fund a programme that will give physically and intellectually disabled children a chance to play football.
And with donations still being counting, we expect that already fantastic number to rise even further in the comings days and weeks.
The Foundation has been represented on the pre-season tour by chief executive John Shiels, who oversaw a series of fundraising events. The idea is to create a ‘legacy fund’, with half being left behind in Perth and the other half being injected back into the Foundation’s work across Greater Manchester.
It all began with an open training session at The WACA, where over 12,000 United supporters each paid $5 for the experience of watching Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad in action ahead of their first tour match against Perth Glory.
Ole and the Reds were clearly inspired to meet so many thousand fans on the night, spending lots of time signing shirts and posing for pictures.
Several lucky youngsters were even invited onto the field during open training to meet their heroes, including two who were picked at random to train with the four goalkeepers, David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Lee Grant and Joel Pereira, while other awestruck children came on to take penalties with the players. See more in the video to the right.
Open training was the first of several events organised by Manchester United Foundation on tour: a gala dinner attended by club legends Bryan Robson and Denis Irwin, and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, took place on Thursday evening, followed by a charity golf day on Friday. An exclusive lunch also took place, during which a select group of high net-worth supporters had the chance to dine with Robson, Irwin, Solskjaer, Mike Phelan, Michael Carrick, and some of the first-team players.
“This is the first time we have tried anything on this scale,” John Shiels said. “We have done quite a lot of fundraising on the tour. The idea is to bring some of the funds back to Manchester to help the Foundation, but also to leave a legacy fund here in Perth and Western Australia.
“We are working with a local organisations in Perth to create a programme similar to what we do at home with Inclusive Reds. It is about how we can get young children of varied abilities, able-bodied or disabled, to play on the same pitch, giving everybody the qualities that football can sport gives you. I'm talking about teamwork, communication, co-operation, and socialisation.
“I am just ecstatic and elated that we can come here and do something that will leave such a fantastic legacy.”