Football/Soccer

EMSONI founder Adekanmi wins BBC NI Unsung Hero award

Adekanmi Abayomi, the winner of this year’s BBC Sport NI Unsung Hero Award for Northern Ireland, with BBC Sport NI reporter Nicola McCarthy Adekanmi is BBC Sport NI’s Unsung Hero For 2020

Adekanmi Abayomi is the winner of this year’s BBC Sports Personality of The Year Unsung Hero Award for Northern Ireland.

Adekanmi founded EMSONI (Ethnic Minority Sports Organisation Northern Ireland) in 2018 to encourage people from ethnic minority groups and communities across Northern Ireland to participate in sport.

As a volunteer, he works across Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland encouraging and promoting the importance of sport at a grassroots level, inspiring others to take part and help reduce racial inequality in sport.

On top of his volunteer work, Adekanmi is also a certified football and handball coach and referee. He teaches walking football twice a week as well as refereeing it and helped set up the Walking Football Federation in Northern Ireland, which now boasts two teams from ethnic minority backgrounds.

One of the most successful initiatives set up by Adekanmi was the Northern Ireland Confederations Cup last year – a football tournament bringing together teams from 12 communities across Northern Ireland. Intended to be an annual tournament, the competition included teams from Algerian, Zimbabwean, Ghanaian, Polish and Belfast backgrounds taking part across nine weeks in the summer.

His involvement with EMSONI sees him encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds, men and women, to play sport – whether that’s through the day-to-day operations of booking pitches, organising taster sessions for women’s swimming, organising cricket taster sessions, handball or badminton.

Adekanmi said: "The attitude of helping society has always been part of me. My purpose here in Northern Ireland through sport is to help my community to break barriers to sport participation and to see how we can address racial inequalities in sport.

"It is important that we use sport in moving society forward. Sport has a lot to do in terms of changing society for better.

"I'm short of words. I really didn't expect this award. It came as a shock to me, so I am really excited and happy about it. This will be in my memory for a long time."

Away from the sporting arena, Adekanmi champions the needs and importance of attracting minority and ethnic communities to sport – organising the first Ethnic Minority Sports Leadership Summit in 2019. He was appointed to the board of the Northern Ireland Sport and Human Rights Forum last year.

Adekanmi will represent Northern Ireland as one of the15 finalists for the overall Unsung Hero Award with the winner being announced live on BBC One at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year later this month.

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Football/Soccer