UNHCR Ireland and SARI make a winning team on World Refugee Day



Fairplay Football for World Refugee Day in collaboration with Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI)  © 

UNHCR Ireland, together with Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI), held the inaugural ‘Fair Play Football Cup’ on Sunday June 20th. The event, marking this year’s World Refugee Day, involved eight teams, almost 100 players and people from the general public, together with friends and supporters of the participating teams. The winning team Hot Press were among the many who expressed their desire to participate again next year and commended the success, spirit and colourful atmosphere of the day.

The football teams which involved refugees, community groups, Government agencies and the media competed in a World Cup-style tournament for the honour of being the first ‘Fair Play Football Cup’ champions.

The teams playing ranged from representatives of a group of Myanmar refugees who were resettled in Co. Mayo to members of staff from the Department of Justice and Law Reform. Each of the teams played with a healthy amount of competitiveness and mutual respect. The high quality of football on display was only matched by the atmosphere and excitement throughout the whole day. This was enhanced by other activities including face-painting for children and a musical performance by the Myanmar resettled refugees.

Blessed with sunshine throughout the day, UNHCR Ireland Head of Office Sophie Magennis noted that the event was also very lucky to have the ‘valuable help and enthusiasm of many volunteers, as well as the presence of several NGOs who provided information to the public about their roles within Irish society and worldwide’.

Ms. Magennis and SARI chairperson Perry Ogden both spoke at the conclusion of the event, highlighting the positive contribution of refugees to Irish society and the important ongoing work of both organisations. Minister of State for Integration, Mary White T.D. was in attendance to watch some of the day’s football action and to present the specially commissioned trophy to the winning team, Hot Press. During her own speech, Minister White reiterated her support for both UNHCR and SARI, refugee resettlement within Ireland and her mission to work towards eradicating racism within Irish society.

All of those who attended, and in particular the participating organisations, expressed their thorough enjoyment of the day. There was a clear consensus that the occasion should become an annual event on the calendar. It is envisaged that next year will be a larger event with an even greater number of people from the general public in attendance.

UNHCR Ireland would like to thank all who helped to make this World Refugee Day event such a success. We would like to thank all the staff and volunteers at SARI, with whom we look forward to collaborating again in the future; the incredible group of young volunteers without whom the event would not have run so smoothly; the eight teams; The Irish Red Cross; Madina for the wonderful food and also the assistance of the various NGO's and community groups who participated with such enthusiasm. Special thanks to our sponsors: NIKE, Lucozade Sport and the Law Society and also to our MC, Eoin McDevitt of Newstalk's Off the Ball. And of course, congratulations to the winning team – Hot Press!