FootballFestNI – Put the Boot into Racism
Loyalists hoping to put boot into racism
Published in the News Letter on Friday 27 May 2011
Help to Unite Against Hate, Charter for NI are hosing an anti-racist 7 a side football festival. After a day of 20 teams competing to be champions of the day. Evening all teams will celebrate with Entertainment by Elvis, tickets cost £10 with half of the proceeds being donated to the Jaxon Kelly appeal for Meningitis Research NI. Please PM for tickets, or add Charter NI to your list. Sat 28th May 2011Shorts Club. The tournament kicks off at midday and the evening entertainment begins at 7pm. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
LOYALISTS in east Belfast are seeking to kick “negative stereotypes” into touch – by hosting a multi-ethnic football tournament.
The inaugural sporting event will involve over 400 people from local communities and various ethnic minorities – including participating teams from African and Polish backgrounds.
Organisers are hopeful the football showpiece – involving both men and women – will help to address issues around ethnic minorities who come to work in the province and help those families who want to integrate fully into Ulster life.
They also wish, through a common love of sport, to reverse the damaging image that the loyalist community has in relation to hate crime and ethnic intolerance.
The seven-a-side football festival – taking place at Shorts Recreational Club’s grounds on the Holywood Road tomorrow – is the brainchild of independent think tank, Charter for Northern Ireland.
Managing director of the organisation, Frankie Gallagher, insisted hosting the event would go some way to addressing the perception that the loyalist community is “racially intolerant”.
“What we are trying to do in practical ways is demonstrate to people that we are holding the hand out in friendship and trying to engage with those who are coming to parts of Northern Ireland.
“We are also trying to create a welcome to those looking to integrate into Northern Ireland society.
“This programme will enable the local unionist and loyalist community to engage with a wide range of ethnic peoples and, by doing so, improve their network and capacity to interact with them.”
Joining a total of nine teams made up solely of African and Polish-born players will be members of the travelling community.
Separate PSNI and Garda teams – who are currently partaking in a joint course relating to hate crimes – are also among the participants.
A cross-community team from east and west Belfast will take to the field together as well as members from both traditions acting as volunteers at the event.
Mr Gallagher said: “Not only is it breaking down barriers between Protestants and Catholics, both communities are also practically working together on a practical goal. It creates a common identity on issues that affect us all.”
Proceeds from a social event following the football festival will go towards the Meningitis Research Foundation, nominated by former Glentoran star Chris Walker.
Mr Walker’s young son, Jaxon, lost his life to the illness earlier this year.
Mr Gallagher added: “The majority of the loyalist-unionist community is very charitable and very giving when it comes to helping people who are in need. They do not deserve the stereotype that a minority of people within that community portray.”