Kate Wilkinson never saw her grandfather Jack Charlton as being famous, saying; “he was just granddad.”
lasgow-based Kate said it was only after watching the BBC documentary Finding Jack Charlton earlier this year that she truly appreciated her grandfather’s impact on the world of sport and beyond.
“I was born in 1994, but I was too young to realise,” she said.
Former Leeds defender Jack Charolton is a national hero, after managing the Irish team to a golden era of international success, including the famous World Cup quarter-final in Italy in 1990.
Now, Kate has revealed she will be following in her granddad’s footsteps, as she heads a team providing humanitarian aid to kids in war-torn Syria, through an educational programme called Syria Education Programme involving football.
Kate hopes this education programme can secure a long-term future for Syrian children, and carry on her beloved granddad’s legacy.
“It’s terrifying to think that any Syrian child under the age of ten knows nothing but war… My granddad would have been proud of the part football is playing on giving kids hope of a better future,” Kate said.
“The role that sport can play in building unity amongst people and building respect, is personified by what happened with my grandad managing and getting Ireland to Italia 90.
“He somehow managed to overcome huge tensions over an Englishman taking the Ireland job on. Football can be a powerful force in breaking down barriers and overcoming the most deeply entrenched problems,” she added.
She makes the announcement on the anniversary of Jack Charlton’s death, who sadly died from lymphoma on July 10 last year, aged 85, after also living with dementia in later life.
“Dementia is an incredibly hard thing for a family to go through, although he never fully lost who he was,” said Kate.
“You could ask him what he’d done that morning and his mind would go blank, but he could suddenly remember totally random memories from years ago.
“He might be watching Sky Sports and say ‘Oh, there’s Paul McGrath’.
Thousands of well-wishers lined the streets of Jack’s hometown in Ashington, Northumberland to pay their respects on the day of his funeral last summer.
“Since he died, one thing that is quite interesting, is that everybody’s reflections on him as a person are exactly the same as my reflections on him.
“A lot of the pictures that I have are funny – whether he was blowing out my candles on my eighth birthday, or whatever… He was always very playful, and he definitely didn’t take himself too seriously,” she said.
Kate will be joining the rest of her family to support Jack’s wife Pat on the first anniversary of his death.
The UK has committed over £3.7billion to supporting the 11 million Syrians forced to flee their homes since civil war erupted 10 years ago, and is urging fellow UN Security Council members to keep the border crossing open for vital humanitarian aid deliveries, amid fears Russia could veto the move at a vote on July 10.
Between April 2020 and March 2021, the UK provided over 240,000 Syrian pupils with access to quality literacy and numeracy schooling, including through the Syria Education Programme, which also includes football and other sporting activities.
Some schools also offer a football tournament as part of an end of semester ceremony and sport is also used during summer camps, to support children to recover from the psychological strain of the conflict.
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