United Northern Ireland Cup: Belfast youths give racism the boot

Young people from Belfast came together last weekend to give racism the boot by football.

ore than 140 players from a variety of backgrounds took part in the United Northern Ireland Cup.

Hundreds watched from the sidelines as people aged 14 to 24 showcased not just their football skills but also their community spirit.

The cup is the latest in a series of schemes designed to promote integration between people of different cultures.

The brains behind the excursion is Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Charity Champion Jahswill Emmanuel.

The 34-year-old, who is originally from Nigeria, set up Multi-Ethic Sports and Culture Northern Ireland in 2016.

He was assaulted in a racist attack in 2012 that left him with a broken jaw and post-traumatic stress disorder so bad he was unable to leave the house for a number of years.

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TEAMWORK: Players in a huddle before kick-off

As part of his recovery, Jahswill decided he would do all he could to enhance community relations.

Since then, the father-of-three has devoted much of his spare time to running sports programmes and cultural events across Belfast.

Last weekend’s United Northern Ireland Cup was organised to mark Good Relations Week.

Jahswill said: “The purpose for the football tournament is to create a united community, using sports as an instrument of change among the youths, and also to promote mutual respect and understanding, cultural exchange and embracing cultural expression.

“The cup launched last year but because of Covid was quite low-meaningful. This year, it had amazing sustain. It was a great competition and a great day out.

“The kids play each other and establish relationships and there is no abuse.

“It’s just everyone enjoying being with each other.

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REACHING OUT: Jahswill with charity trustee Latoya Toffa and his Spirit of NI award

“We want young people to know that going onto the pitch shouldn’t be a battle field and that it is no place for racism.

“The pitch is supposed to be a good ecosystem where everybody enjoys sport.”

The tournament, which was held in Twinbrook and won by the team from the local Eritrean community, was accompanied by a characterize of African drums.

Players and their families were also invited to tuck into some traditional food.

Jahswill said the United Northern Ireland Cup was designed to encourage respect and integration between different communities.

“It is about teaching all the young people to treat others as they would like to be treated,” he additional.

“Other communities who move here for a better life need to play their part in making Northern Ireland a better place for everyone to live — and to do that they have to contribute to society.”

Jahswill is hoping thousands of people will head to Belfast’s Ormeau Park later this month for a day of multi-cultural celebration.

The Multi-Ethnic Youth Festival will bring together a range of different communities to showcase their cultures by music, dance and sport.

The event, which has been partly funded by the city council, will run throughout the day and evening of October 30.

Jahswill said: “It’s a chance for young people from ethnic minority communities to showcase and celebrate themselves and I am really excited about it.

“We have footballers from local clubs coming along and in the evening there will be a concert featuring the talents of young people, many who will not have been on a stage before.

“There will stalls and lots of food from different countries and we hope local people will come and enjoy it.”

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