A football tournament organised by local charity Justice First has brought diverse communities together for a day of sporting activity.
The annual five-a-side football tournament, which took place at Goals Soccer Centre in Middlesbrough, returned for its fifth year, with the support of former Middlesbrough Football Club and Republic of Ireland footballer Curtis Fleming, together with Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner, Barry Coppinger.
Justice First was established in 2006 and provides support for people living in the Tees Valley area who are seeking asylum.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger said: “I see supporting organisations such as Justice First as a key part of my role in bringing communities together to create a more cohesive society.
“Middlesbrough has a long tradition of welcoming people from different countries and cultures and events like this help bring people together through a shared love of football whilst also, more importantly, breaking down some of the barriers between asylum seekers and agencies.
“I know through my work with asylum seekers that many have fled from horrendous circumstances and find trusting authority figures very difficult due to experiences from their country of origin, so to see them playing football alongside police officers from Middlesbrough’s neighbourhood teams is an excellent example of how far we have come in engaging with all sectors of our local communities.”
Pete Widlinski, Justice First’s Communication Manager, said: “When you first set something up like this you are never sure how long it is going to last for. As with all things in the voluntary sector it depends on available funding, so we spend a lot of time fundraising and applying for funds from charitable trusts, but that’s just the nature of the game. To keep the organisation going for ten years I think is fantastic.
“Getting the work we do into the community gives us that higher profile and helps us with fundraising, particularly with individual donations. Any public exposure that we get is good and of course there’s no better way of doing it than with football, it’s an international language.”
Inspector Tina Notman, from the Coulby Newham and South Middlesbrough Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “This year, as a local neighbourhood policing team, we entered the tournament in order to engage with individuals who would maybe be reluctant to engage with us in any other setting. It’s a great way to break down barriers within our local community.”
Posted on Wednesday 18th May 2016