Community relations the winner at EMSONI's Confederation Cup

East Timor, winners of the 2021 EMSONI Confederation Cup Final. Photograph by Declan Roughan

COMMUNITY spirit was the real winner at the conclusion of the second Northern Ireland Confederation Cup organised by EMSONI (Ethnic Minority Sports Organisation Northern Ireland).

Fifteen communities participated over two months of soccer matches with East Timor emerging victorious by 7-3 over the Romanian representatives in final. Portugal NI beat Limestone Community 6-1 in the third place play-off.

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Kate Nicholl commended EMSONI for "the inclusivity, pride and joy that they have brought to the multicultural city of Belfast."

Geraldine McGahey OBE, Chief Commissioner, Equality Commission for NI, praised "this brilliant initiative which brings so many different people together. It is so important to focus on the things that bring us together, like sport, and to accept one another, with all our differences.

"The camaraderie of the Romanian and East Timor players after the final game, despite their intense rivalry on the pitch, and their support of each other during the presentation of the trophies clearly demonstrated the relationships that have been formed. I look forward to the next tournament in 2022.”

Cameron Bolarinwa, EMSONI’s Youth Ambassador, said: “EMSONI is determined to use this project to open sports up to even greater cultural diversity.Through this project, we have been able to bring much joy, happiness, and entertainment to the people after a long and arduous lockdown.

"The EMSONI family remains grateful to its funders, partners, supporters, volunteers, the communities,and everyone who contributed towards the success of this year's edition. Congratulations to all the teams for their participation - without them there would be no final where we all celebrated humanity.”

Adekanmi Abayomi, EMSONI’s Founder, said: “Our Northern Ireland Confederation Cup is a demonstration of how relevant football is to good community relations.

“People play sports without bothering themselves whether the other team or team-mate is from a particular religion or political or cultural background.

“In fact, the makeup of the teams has been the real winner here. Both Catholics and Protestants presented a joint team, with many more Catholics and Protestants playing for the ethnic minority teams and vice versa, because the formation of these communities’ teams are premised on a foundation that attracts inclusiveness, passion, and participation.This has indeed fostered an atmosphere of acceptance of other cultures.

“We can only co-exist if we know ourselves better,” Adekanmi added. “Sharing knowledge is a two-way road. We, as migrants, need to know about the local cultures, and same with the local people. We are both in need of knowledge to co-exist and the best informal way to achieve this is through a project such as our Northern Ireland Confederation Cup.”

Player of the Tournament: Mora Ovidiu (Romania);

Best Young Player of the Tournament: Zemo Oliveira (East Timor);

Best Goalkeeper: Sebastian Bajenaru (Romania);

Man of the Final: Jorge do Rosario (East Timor);

Golden Boot: Robert McVarnock (Limestone Community) - 11 goals.

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