Mindless arsonists failed to blow the final whistle on March Soccer School when it was game on as usual at the weekend.
Youngsters refused to be defeated and took part in their matches on Saturday thanks to an “overwhelming” response from the community to replace equipment lost in a devastating fire last week.
Around £2,000 worth of items including line markers, goals, pitch barriers, corner flags and balls were destroyed when arsonists set fire to the club’s games shed at Westwood Junior School.
Since the blaze, managers have been astounded by the generosity and support shown to the club.
The Neale Wade Academy, local football clubs and family members of young players donated equipment to enable the weekend’s games to go ahead and donations to replace items in the long-term have poured in.
Matt Christian, one of the club’s team managers, said: “Since it happened my phone has been ringing non-stop with offers of help, which is just brilliant.
“We have been overwhelmed by the community response, and quite taken aback. It’s hard to put into words just how grateful we are to everyone.”
An online Justgiving page set up on Thursday to raise £1,000 of the money needed to replace lost items reached the half-way mark in just a few hours, and collection boxes have been set up across the town.
March estate agency Harrison Murray, which sponsors the club’s Under 8 Blue team, also pledged £300.
Estate agency manager Nicola Roberts said: “We were absolutely devastated when we heard about the fire at one of the town’s most popular and well-used community projects.
“As a sponsor of one of the club’s teams we particularly wanted to show our support as soon as we heard about the news to enable everyone who works at the club, and the youngsters themselves, to get back to normal as soon as possible.”
March packaging company Smurfit Kappa was one of many local firms to offer its support too, with a donation of £75.
A £200 reward to catch the arsonists responsible has also been put up by local councillor David Connor, whose six-year-old grandson Harvey is a member of the school.
Club secretary Katie Conyard said: “Funds are very kindly being raised by the local community to assist our young children and replace some of what was lost.
“We provide footballing opportunities to 170 children on a weekly basis and we are working hard to ensure the next few weekends are no different.
“Our thanks go to everyone for their overwhelming kindless and support.”
Anyone wanting to make a donation to March Soccer School can visit it fundraising website at: www.justgiving.com/yimby/MSS