Football/Soccer

EMSONI founder Adekanmi Abayomi named Sport NI Volunteer of the Year

Sport NI Volunteer of the Year Adekanmi Abayomi pictured with his family.
Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye

A Belfast-based volunteer has been honoured for his contribution and commitment to creating good relations through multi-sports opportunities at the 2019 Sport NI #SportMaker Awards.

Adekanmi Abayomi, founder of Ethnic Minority Sports Organisations Northern Ireland (EMSONI) volunteers his time across Belfast and Northern Ireland promoting sport within ethnic minority groups and diverse communities. This organisation acts a vehicle for driving sport participation to all ethnic minorites across Northern Ireland.

Sport NI’s SportMaker Awards recognise outstanding achievements by Northern Ireland’s sporting workforce. The 'Volunteer of the Year' title is awarded to individuals who demonstrate outstanding contribution to the development of sport. It was presented to Adekanmi by David Smyth, Coaching Consultant at Sport NI, at a walking football event at Lagan Valley LeisurePlex.

Kanmi, as he's known, recently initiated the Northern Ireland Confederation Cup at both Olympia and Midgley Park in Belfast. Participants from 12 communities engaged in an 11-a-side football tournament across nine weeks, encouraging good relations, community cohesion, and tackling isolation through sport. Groups involved were Zimbabwean, Polish, Suffolk (West Belfast), Somali, Sudanese, Algerian, Blackstaff (South Belfast), North African, Asian, Timorese, International, and the Ghanaian community.

Adekanmi also volunteers some of his time into the development of the Northern Ireland Walking Football Federation. His passion and work has already been recognised by the Federation Steering Committee by selecting him to serve on the Board and support the development of their strategy, which has been extremely successful.

Their sustained participation has now increased to 14 teams resulting in more improved integration and inclusion within areas such as Castleregh, Lisburn City, and Belfast.

Adekanmi says one of the major barriers into community-based sport is the lack of sports kit, especially for ethnic minority groups. This was a challenge but through raising much-needed finance and some sponsorship he was able to purchase 18 jerseys for 11 communities so that they could join and feel part of a team.

Awuah Doreen, a fellow volunteer who nominated Adekanmi for his award, said: “Adekanmi is a doer, a great visionary and a passionate lover of sport - everyone looks up to him for direction as he believes that everything is possible to achieve if you are ready for it.”

Congratulating Adekanmi on his award, Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown added: “Sport NI is delighted to be presenting this award to Adekanmi and to celebrate his contribution to Northern Ireland Sport.

"Volunteering is certainly at the heart of making sport happen, and Adekanmi demonstrates this by breaking down barriers and providing opportunities for all people no matter what their age or background to enjoy, compete, and to stay engaged in sport.

"Adekanmi has displayed a tremendous commitment to society here in Northern Ireland, underpinning and creating social, health and wellbeing benefits.

“The role that volunteers play in making sport happen in Northern Ireland cannot be overstated. Every day, these individuals dedicate their time and energy to helping others enjoy, engage and excel in sport.

"All too often this can go unnoticed, and that’s why, through the SportMaker Awards, Sport NI wants to shine a spotlight on the impact people like Adekanmi are having in sports clubs and organisations throughout Northern Ireland.

"Adekanmi also plays a vital role in supporting other members of the sporting workforce within his Volunteer Now membership. His passion for sport is infectious and inspiring, and we are delighted to be presenting him with the award for Volunteer of the Year.”

"On behalf of Sport Northern Ireland, I would like to congratulate Adekanmi on his richly deserved award and hope he continues to play such a positive and important role as a SportMaker.”

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