Curtis Fleming with PCC Barry Coppinger
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger attended the 'Justice First' Annual International Football tournament which took place yesterday at 'Goals' on Stockton Road in Middlesbrough.
Former Middlesbrough FC and Republic of Ireland international Curtis Fleming helped organise the event and demonstrated some football skills.
The match, organised by charity Justice First, saw twenty-five teams from across Teesside representing charities such as The British Red Cross and Hartlepool Asylum, and several teams of asylum seekers.
Lucie Fleming of Justice First said: "Justice First is a refugee law project offering support to asylum seekers in the Teesside area who are trying to re-engage with the legal system.
"The charity helps with the process of gaining protection as an asylum seeker and in gaining refugee status. Organising events such as these football matches helps asylum seekers to integrate with the community because all nations speak the language of football!
"There are so many nationalities taking part in this match, it’s like a mini World Cup!"
Kath Sainsbury of Justice First said: "All of the teams play to win The John and Jamie Owens Memorial Shield.
"In 2000, the Tees Valley area began welcoming asylum seekers into local communities. In an effort to provide activities for refugees and also promote community cohesion, Stockton International Family Centre set up a football team and advertised for players from the local neighbourhood. Only one local player responded and joined the refugee team – a teenager called John Owens.
"John soon became an integral part of the team and was loved by the other players. Tragically, in 2005 John died of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome, aged just 17 years. In 2006 the previous team manager, Apollo Ouedraogo, from Burkina Faso, established an annual football match, which ran for a number of years to honour John’s memory.
"However, in a further devastating blow to the Owens family, John’s brother Jamie died from the same condition in 2010.
"The John and Jamie Owens Memorial Shield is now an integral part of the Justice First Annual International Football Tournament which celebrates Refugee Week. It is awarded to the team which is judged to have played fairly and upheld the spirit of friendship and co-operation."
PCC Barry Coppinger said: "I take great pride in supporting this event, which enables all walks of life, all communities to come together and have fun in sharing a passion for football. Events like this reflect what policing in Cleveland is all about, encouraging communities to live and work together."
Posted on Monday 15th June 2015