Actonians LFC Hosts Asylum Seekers in Friendly Tournament

Event organised with help of Amnesty International Ealing

Players from countries including Eritrea, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Sudan took part
Players from countries including Eritrea, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Sudan took part

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Sixty asylum seekers and refugees played in a friendly five-aside tournament in West London this month hosted by Actonians LFC and Amnesty International Ealing, with support from Care 4 Calais.

Local politicians including Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq were cheering from the side-lines along with members of the community eager to raise awareness of the plight of refugees.

Participants from Eritrea, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Sudan, to name but a few took part.

Coaches from Actonians LFC refereed the matches and as ‘Football Welcomes Refugees’ Month falls during Ramadan this year, Actonians LFC also hosted an Iftar dinner after two hours of fantastic football.

Sport has the power to bring people together so at a time when much of the world is being displaced and diaspora communities continue to grow, Actonians LFC pledged to take a stand and make all refugees and asylum seekers feel welcome. And that was certainly felt on the day.

One refugee from Sudan said, “We are enjoying our time here, football is very good and I'm so glad to meet new people and make new friends.”

Whilst another shared “I am fasting but I really enjoyed playing football today. I loved meeting all of you. You made us feel welcome and have given us football kits, new shoes. And I'm really happy to meet you”

Football was used to bring people together
Football was used to bring people together

The event kicks off Amnesty International's annual ‘Football Welcomes Refugees’ campaign to celebrate the contribution of asylum seekers and players with a refugee background to the game and their new community. Actonians LFC is one of the first grassroots club to join the national effort.

During Ramadan Muslims typically end their daily fast at sunset. On Tuesday, Iftar time was around 7:45pm and the boys played right up until the last minute as two teams, really getting into the spirit of the beautiful game, demanded rematches.

‘Ali’ from Iran said: “I was so hungry after football, I loved the rice and chicken. It was cooked perfectly, it tasted like home.”

Local Persian restaurant Maryam’s Kitchen in South Ealing prepared rice and chicken for everyone as well as a typical Iranian dessert. London’s Community Kitchen based in Harrow also donated drinks, fruit and cakes.

Rupa Huq, spoke to the players on the day saying, “What a wonderful event, football is a beautiful game. It crosses all barriers, all boundaries…classes, races and religions. We, as politicians are on your side, we work with Amnesty to show refugees and asylum seekers, you are welcome here.”
Huq was joined by local councillor, Praveen Anand who added, “I understand how difficult this time may be, how difficult your journey to the UK must have been. It's really touching that you are all here.”

Actonians LFC will also be hosting a football festival for Afghan refugee and women and girl asylum seekers on 7 May in Feltham

Shadia Edwards-Dashti

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April 21, 2022

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