REFUGEES from across Northern Ireland will gather in Belfast on Sunday for a celebration of song, music, food and culture to mark the end of a special new soccer league.
The festival in Ormeau Park will mark the culmination of 12 weeks of football in the first Super League for Asylum Seekers and Refugees.
Backed by the Uefa and the Irish FA Foundation, the league has been set up by Jahswill Emmanuel, the Charity Champion winner at the Sunday Life Spirit of NI Awards in 2021.
Jahswill has been helping young people from war-torn countries including Ukraine feel part of the local community through his charity Multi-Ethnic Sports and Cultures Northern Ireland.
Originally from Nigeria, he moved to Northern Ireland in 2004, and after suffering a racially motivated attack, he went on to set up his charity.
Now he is dedicated to transforming the lives of ethnic minority communities through involvement in sports and cultural events to minimise isolation and promote inclusion, diversity, and integration.
The new super league has been a huge success and will culminate today with a tournament which kicks off at 2pm and is free to the public.
There will be 12 ethnic minority teams playing.
Jahswill said: “We have a lot of asylum and refugee intakes in Northern Ireland right now, and we conducted an eight-week programme for them earlier this year that was supported by Uefa and the Irish FA Foundation.”
The Migrant Centre NI has also contributed to the programme, which aims to welcome asylum seekers and refugees by bringing them closer to local communities.
Jahswill added: “The feedback from participants who engaged each Sunday at Ormeau Park indicated the need for funders and supporters to come on board so that we can continue to support our asylum and refugee communities.
“We have 12 teams representing various communities, but the most important aspect is that we were able to form a World FC squad with players from many countries, including new Ukrainian asylum seekers, Iranians and Yemenis. They’ve managed to form bonds with others.”