East Timorese Wins NI Confederation Cup 2021

East Timor emerged victorious by 7-3 over the Romanian representatives in final of the second edition of Northern Ireland Confederation Cup in Belfast organised by EMSONI (Ethnic Minority Sports Organisation Northern Ireland). While Portugal NI defeated Limestone Community by 6-1 in the third-place play-off.

Fifteen communities participated over two months of soccer matches at both Olympia Park and Ulidia Playing Fields Belfast.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Kate Nicholl, was there at the final to support the project. Before presenting the trophy to the new champions, she 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 strong 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, equity, 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.”

“This is not only about football – but this is also about people coming together, having fun, knowing each other beyond sport, to know about their food, to know about their cultures, to know about their lives,” he said.

“It makes it easier for us to co-exist – it’s always difficult to co-exist with people that you don’t know.

“That is why sport is very important to create that platform to know each other, so that they can understand and know how to co-exist.

“Everybody appreciates their identity, but it’s important for all of us to respect each other’s identity and see how we can live together as partners, not rivals.”

“The result had been friendships built across communities. Teams that are already out of the tournament are now organising friendly matches among themselves which means that they have been exchanging contacts and speaking with each other. For them to be organising things on their own, having friendly matches, even after they are out of the competition, is amazing.

Even before the end of the tournament, we have already seen the difference – taking the relationships built through this project to the next level. People have begun to know each other which is great for friendship.”

“Northern Ireland Confederation Cup is needed because such platform brings happiness. As you can see, people are happy here. The end point of what we are doing is we want people to be happy. When people are happy, society is happy,” he said.

“We have a lot of troubles all over the world, not just Northern Ireland. We need to create activities that will take people’s minds away from sadness, from troubles and bring happiness back to their lives.”

Barbara Mageean, from Rosario Community Outreach Committee, said each team brought something special. it’s all about integration. It’s up close and personal, so you have no choice but to mix with people.

“It’s as professional as they can make it a tournament,” Barbara Mageean said.

“The football clubs should be having their scouts there to see these guys, some of them are incredible and the standard has been brilliant, and the camaraderie has been brilliant.

“But just the ethos behind the whole idea – intercommunity, inter-racial, it’s just ‘let’s forget about our differences, let’s get on the football pitch and have fun’ and it works a treat.

“In terms of just the society we live in, it’s so refreshing.”

She said while the standard of football had been impressive, the support for the teams had been equally so.

“They’re all so friendly, they’re all so welcoming, they’re all so proud of their nations and where they’re from and they’ll talk to you about it,” she said.

Eileen Chan-Hu, from CRAICNI, commented, “so happy to see the wonderful atmosphere of young and old at event. So many diverse cultures there at Ulidia-Rosario, it was amazing. Many kids celebrating too, supporting their teams, maybe family members or those they knew, was a joy to watch! Great community spirit”.

“The Confederation Cup is one of NI’s best events showcasing how wonderful this place is and can be in its embracing of diversity. Much needed at times of the pandemic to feel not alone. Inclusion matters,” she said.

Adekanmi further said that the teams are all excited to see this tournament as an annual event. They are already asking about next year.

“Next year will not be only 15 teams, we will definitely have more,” he said.

The following individual prizes were also given out to appreciate the efforts of the players:

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 Match: Jorge do Rosario (East Timor).

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

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