Football Unites is sorry to report that a minibus containing workers and young people representing FURD was involved in an accident on the M1 on 13th July in which a young person died. The 18 year old was a member of our Positive Futures Under-18 football team. Two other members of the group are in hospital with injuries that are serious but not life-threatening, and several other young people in the minibus sustained less serious injuries.
We are devastated by this tragic event. Everyone connected to the project is coming to terms with the loss of a team mate and a friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.
The group was returning from the Mondiali Antirazzisti, an anti-racist football festival in Bologna, Italy. They were participating alongside 200 teams from across the world. The event is built on a bedrock of anti-discrimination, diversity and inclusivity, of which the FURD team was the very embodiment.
The players come from all corners of the earth; Brazil, Somaliland, Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Georgia, Poland, Chile and Yemen, and mixed with the local lads who were born and bred in Sheffield. They were one of the youngest teams in the competition and reached the last 16 where they were knocked out by the eventual winners.
The trip was their reward for being such positive ambassadors for the Football Unites project. A myriad of backgrounds, colours and faiths, they were united by their collective love of football, a game which, for them, sidestepped all cultural barriers.
After four years training together as a team, they had not only become an effective unit on the field, doing well in the Sheffield under 18 league last season, but a close knit group of friends off it, who looked out for each other and looked up to those who trained them.
During their brief stay in Bologna, they gained much admiration from fellow teams and organisers alike for the manner in which they played the game and their mature outlook particularly in the face of defeat. They were a credit to FURD, and a shining example of how young people from disparate communities can find common ground.
Our urgent priority is to arrange help and support for all the young people involved in this tragedy and their families.