A social enterprise group which supports Northern Ireland’s migrant community is teaming up with the foundation of former Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand, to host a football tournament in Portadown.
Organised by NI Hyatt, the cross-community event in the town’s People’s Park will bring together 15 young people from the Syrian Community as part of the fun event for young people and their families.
Over 100 people are expected to come together on Sunday as part of the UEFA Youth In Action project, with teams of young Syrian and East Timorese players from Newry and Dungannon competing against other young people from the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon borough in a 5-a-side football tournament.
It won’t just be all football however, with the event being billed as a celebration of young people’s achievements and a way to broaden cultural horizons, with each participant also enjoying a picnic lunch featuring traditional Syrian cuisine.
Set to kick off at 10am, the event will also include a closing address at 2.30pm by the council’s deputy Lord Mayor Jackie Donnelly.
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said: “In the current climate, it is important that we create inclusive communities and support our young people to build their skills and take a lead in that process wherever we are in the world.
“Our partnership with the UEFA Foundation helps us to support young people to tackle racism and it is good to see communities in Northern Ireland embrace that approach.
“I would like to congratulate the young people involved in delivering the event in Portadown for their hard work and training to date and look forward to seeing the results of their work in the future.”
NI Hyatt supports refugees and asylum seekers throughout the Co Armagh area, helping them integrate into the local community and empowering young people to engage with others.
Hassan Al Khawam from NI Hyatt explained Sunday's event was not just about enjoying the football, but also promoting integration among young people from different backgrounds.
“With the help of the young people involved and by empowering them with a voice, we hope to establish a support network and reinforce friendships between the players and their families, contributing to tackling isolation and promoting well-being, their positive physical and mental health in general,” he said.
“It has been an inspiring experience to work alongside the Rio Ferdinand Foundation and we are certain this fruitful partnership can only grow stronger by continuing to develop our young members who are already making a real difference to their communities.”