Fair Play Football Cup 2018

Footballers from across Ireland came together for the 2018 Fair Play Football Cup


Players of the Syrian Café Rits Team holding the Fair Play Trophy, awarded to the team that best embodies the spirit of good sportsmanship at the annual tournament.   © Razan Ibraheem


A busy World Cup TV schedule didn’t keep the crowds away from the 9th Fair Play Football Cup, which took place in Dublin on June 24th

500 people watched on as 20 teams of refugees, asylum-seekers and members of the public from across Ireland took part in the tournament, which is organised each year by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and Sport Against Racism Ireland in the Law Society Gardens.

“Football is the language of the world, it brings all of us together” said Erik Oti from Kilkenny. His family are originally from South Sudan, but the unusual warm streak in Irish temperatures reminded him of the dry ground of the refugees camps where he first learned to play. “Playing football in (hot) weather reminds us of back home in Africa but some things are just the same. It’s about playing with friends.”

One year after arriving in Ireland, a group of Syrian refugees first formed in Greece got to play once more as a team. ‘Cafe Ritz ’players were formed in Ritzona refugee camp, Athens, but after arriving in Ireland last year found themselves split up to different parts of the country.

“(It) reminded me of our first time playing football together back in Greece” said Abdo Rashid, one of the teams players.

It is great to play with my friends again.

Café Ritz won the Fair Play Award, a prize granted awarded annually to the team that best embodies the spirit of fair play and compassion in the tournament. “The trophy was our biggest win for me and my teammates” said team captain Ali Ramadan. “This is what we were trying to do in Greece, the sportsmanship. I am very proud of it.”

This year’s Cup also saw four women's teams participate. Rihana, originally from Algeria, plays for the DiverseCity team based in Dublin. She likes football because it brings people together like a family. “I play for diversity. You learn about the different cultures as you play. You are more open to people.  Racism doesn't exists in this cup,” she explains.

“Sport is one of the best ways to get new communities to meet Irish people,” says Jody Clarke of UNHCR. “People meet down on the training ground and get to focus on one thing, football, making it a really important tool against racism.”

The winners of the men’s tournament was Team Brazil as Irish Street Leagues took home the women’s trophy. Both trophies were presented by Joe Costello, the former minister in the Department of Foreign Affairs and the chairman of the local Stoneybatter Festival.