When Welsh football fans Tim Hartley and Neil Dymock visited Baku 19 years ago to watch Wales play Azerbaijan in the Euro 2004 qualifiers, an encounter with a local street child sparked an idea. They wanted to provide a way for other Wales fans to support disadvantaged young people through fundraising and donations, helping local charities wherever the national side play.
This idea went on to become Gôl Cymru, which over the last two decades has helped hundreds of children around the world; with volunteers visiting children’s homes and hospitals, from New York to Tbilisi, donating money, gifts and running coaching sessions in more than 40 countries. And when Wales are playing on home turf, the Gôl team has brought under-privileged children from across the world over to visit Wales and attend the games, organising cultural trips. From castles to coast and more.
Gôl Cymru’s work has raised the profile of Welsh football supporters internationally and helped to tackle stereotypes about football fans. The team of volunteers is determined to make a difference and support communities, wherever the Red Wall goes. Their work also puts Wales’ culture, countryside and people on a global stage – showcasing Cymru as a beautiful place to visit.
Even amid the pandemic, the postponement of the 2020 Euros didn’t stop Gôl’s fundraising efforts. Fans kept busy in lockdown, raising money by signing up to run or walk the distance to Azerbaijan, on to Rome and back home to Wales; the journey they should have taken to see Wales play. Together, fans travelled 11,291 miles and raised £3,450 for charities across the UK, Ireland and Bulgaria.
And now, with the 2020 Euros finally approaching, Gôl Cymru is rallying around to prepare to return to Azerbaijan, the country where it all began. This time, they’ll visit a centre for street children and a social enterprise chocolate shop set up to raise funds for their work; a fitting return to the charity’s spiritual home to reflect on two decades of doing good.