Honours even as Unity Cup Festival hits stride04 August 2003

A Newcastle based team of Cameroonians, Le Camer, walked away with the main prize at the weekend-long Unity Cup Festival, as over 200 asylum seekers and refugees from 14 towns and cities took part in Manchester, UK.

The competition saw a plethora of celebrities and footballers attend to offer their support to the cause of asylum seekers and refugees, including Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers Association, Manchester United and England footballer, Wes Brown, actors Shubna Gulanti and Trevor Dwyer-Lynch from UK TV soap – Coronation Street, and Manchester United coach and former 70’s favourite Tony Whelan.

The Marc Vivien Foe Award, named in honour of the Manchester City and Cameroon midfielder who tragically died on a football pitch earlier this summer, was presented to The Brothers team from Norwich by Marie Louise Foe, wife of Marc, in recognition of consistent fairplay from the Albanian, Iraqi Kurd and Algerian team.

Sheffield’s Red United, a predominantly Albanian side took the Unity Shield trophy.

Many at the Festival spoke privately of the problems they faced in the flight from their countries of origin, nations wealthy in natural resources but where internal strife, corruption and poverty prevail.

Desbon Bushiri a young refugee to Britain from Burundi, spoke publicly on Saturday of playing for Sheffield United reserves as an asylum seeker whilst living on vouchers, trying to reconcile the life of a hungry asylum seeker with that of an athlete.

B. Michel from the Le Camer team echoed the feelings of many of those present when he spoke from the winners podium,
“As Cameroonians it’s a very emotional day for us, we welcome Marie – Louise Foe as we remember our friend and fellow footballer Marc Vivien Foe.”

“These are difficult times for those of us labelled as asylum seekers and refugees. It is important we stand strong against the negative images of us, and the treatment we are subjected to by the authorities. We all face problems each day, with jobs, money, and other worries, but football is the one thing brings us together and allows us to be one.”