Teams from around the globe will be converging on Yorkshire in two weeks to compete for a coveted football title.
Europe’s footballing elite may be fighting for the spoils in the European Championships across the Channel in June and July, but Leeds will host a football tournament on a truly global scale.
For this year is the ninth annual Leeds Refugee World Cup on Saturday June 18.
Teams of refugees and others from across Yorkshire will be competing for the prestigious title as part of events to mark national Refugee Week. They will be representing countries as diverse as Sudan, Iraq, Angola, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ethiopia among others.
The tournament, which is being held at Thomas Danby College Community Centre, is the perfect way to celebrate diversity through sport and to remind people of the positive contributions refugees make in UK society.
The theme of Refugee Week 2016, which kicks off on June 20, is “Welcome”. It takes place annually in many countries and was launched worldwide in 1998.
Aimeclaude Ndongozi, Migrant Help UK’s Regional Operations Manager for Yorkshire, said: “Every year our football tournament gets more popular and every year we reach out to more people to show them that whether we are refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants or born and bred in the UK, we are all the same.
“That’s why sport, and in particular football, has always been an excellent way to break down barriers and encourage integration, because it’s something we all love, no matter what part of the world we come from.”
The event is sponsored and organised by Migrant Help UK, with help from the Refugee Council, the Red Cross and Leeds Refugee Forum.
Last year 16 seven-a-side teams competed for the title in front of a crowd of hundreds and the winners were Eritrea FC. But this year there are already more teams ready to play and there is still time for new teams to register.
Mr Ndongozi said: “You don’t have to be a refugee to play. We have teams from Migrant Help UK, the Red Cross and others and we welcome everyone.”
The aim of Refugee Week is to counter public and media misconceptions about asylum seekers and refugees. In the UK it’s made up of a programme of arts, cultural, sporting and educational events and activities that celebrate the contribution of refugees to our society. It also promotes a better understanding of why people seek sanctuary.
Migrant Help UK, which was launched in 1963 and provides services at 20 locations nationwide, is the country’s largest charity offering advice and support services to vulnerable migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Last year alone, it helped tens of thousands of people in need from many different parts of the globe.
The tournament, which runs from 11am-5pm, will also feature a Fair Play Trophy for the team which best reflects the spirit of the game and the event.
Alongside the football will be activities for all the family, including bouncy castles and face-painting. Entry is free.