The spirit of the World Cup will live on next week as a national football festival brings players with roots across the world to Sheffield for the first time.
The Unity Cup Festival, organised by the national Kick It Out campaign, will bring together players from refugee and asylum backgrounds to challenge negative stereotypes.
The festival will feature 20 teams of refugees and asylum-seekers with players from countries as diverse as Albania, Somalia, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Guinea, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Poland, Pakistan and China. In Sheffield, a qualifying event, the All Nations tournament, was held as part of Refugee Week, and successful teams going through to the national Unity Cup are Galeed Giants, African Dream Team, Albanian Fire, and a Sheffield United staff select.
As part of the activities, participants will be given advice on asylum rights, and how to participate in mainstream football activities, including developing links with their local professional clubs and County FAs.
Spectators are welcome to come along to any part of the weekend event and celebrate the power of football to unite.The tournament will be opened on the evening of Friday 14th July with a welcoming event on Devonshire Green in Sheffield city centre from 4pm-9pm. Streetkick, music, food, stalls and displays will all be there, and the Unity Cup will be formally opened at 8pm by the Lord Mayor and Richard Caborn MP, Minister for Sport. The tournament will then be played on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th July from 12 noon to 4pm at the Sheffield United FC Academy, Firshill Crescent, Shirecliffe, Sheffield. As well as the tournament, stalls, food and children's activities will be there to entertain spectators.
Piara Powar, Director of Kick It Out, said:
“The Unity Cup Festival is now an established event that the football family has been supporting since it was launched in 2003. Through channelling the power of the game, we are raising awareness of the plight that displaced communities are facing while engaging and embracing those who are often at the brunt of exclusion”.
The Unity Cup Festival has been organised by Kick It Out in partnership with Football Unites, Racism Divides, and is supported by Sheffield City Council, Sheffield County FA and Amicus trade union.
For further information please contact Leon Mann at Kick It Out on 020 7684 4884 or 07736 009 116.