This story by Nick Stevens originally appeared on Hope Not Hate.
It’s fair to say that we at HOPE not hate have written extensively over the years about the relationship between organised football violence and the growth and movements of the far-right scene in the UK. That being the case, it is always a delight when we can write about the opposite: a positive story about the impact of ‘the beautiful game’, and its role in bringing people together.
And so was the case in Barnsley on Saturday 16th January, as 16 teams from across Yorkshire, and even as far afield as London and Leicester, came together for a 5-a-side ‘Anti-Racism Tournament’ organised by Unite the Union, with backing from Show Racism The Red Card and Barnsley FC Community Support Trust.
HOPE not hate was delighted to be invited to the fantastic, diverse, event in a freezing sports hall next to Barnsley football ground in the middle of the South Yorkshire town. The ground itself is situated in a residential area, and walking around, one really gets the sense of the unifying properties of the world’s most popular sport, as the game becomes a catalyst for a community to come together.
As teams such as ‘Yorkshire St Pauli’, ‘Barnsley ESOL’ and ‘Manchester Refugee Support’ clashed in their various groups, the viewing gallery and seating area was packed with people determined to stand in solidarity with those that some see fit to demonise and scapegoat.
Being as they were only 5 minutes long, and with 3 matches being played at once, the games themselves were played at a whirlwind pace, with some fantastic individual and team skill on show. Whilst we got a stitch just watching, the boundless levels of energy from all involved needs to be commended, as does the organisation of the day itself, which was superb. Also, a big thank you to the caterers who put on a great spread to keep the teams full of vitality.
In the end, Manchester Refugee Support emerged victorious, so congratulations to them!