A weekend of friendship through football at the Unity Cup Festival in Sheffield, UK came to an exciting climax on Sunday 16th July.
The national festival, organised by FARE partner Kick It Out, in conjunction with fellow FARE partners Football Unites, Racism Divides; brought 20 teams of refugees and asylum seekers together from all corners of the UK to highlight the positive contribution displaced communities are making to society and to challenge negative stereotypes.
The Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Cllr Jackie Drayton, officially opened the festival on Friday evening in a ceremony that included performances by local bands, DJ's and dance groups with an attendance of hundreds of local people.
The teams were drawn into groups at the opening with the help of Sheffield United star, Leigh Bromby, former Sheffield United strike-force, Brian Deane and Tony Agana, and local boxing star Amer 'Killa' Khan. Mukhtar Mohammed, a young Somali player from the Sheffield Wednesday Academy, also helped with the draw.
The Festival split into two on Saturday night with two separate trophies up for grabs, the 'Unity Cup' and 'Unity Shield'.
Last year's winners 'VG Foundation' Manchester retained their title, beating Sheffield side 'Albanian Fire' in the Unity Cup final.
Polish Consul, attending the festival for the first time, took home the Shield after a final tie with Hull's 'Azardi ARKH'.
Bolton side, FC Strongbow, were voted the Marc Vivien-Foe Fairplay winners and will now join Chelsea and Liverpool fans at the Community Cup Final in Cardiff next month, courtesy of The FA.
The vote on who would be going to Cardiff reflected how the spirit of the festival was enjoyed by all the teams as only one vote separated the winning team from 5 others.
Newly promoted Sheffield United's Football Academy Director, George Harrison, paid testament to the teams,
“There have been some fantastic players on show here over the weekend and I've been very impressed by how the teams have played the game in the right spirits. The Unity Cup Festival has surpassed all of my expectations and we feel proud to have hosted this great event.”
The festival was organised in partnership with the Sheffield based Football Unites, Racism Divides project, with the support of the Sheffield County FA, Sheffield City Council and Amicus trade union.