At the weekend two mighty football teams met in a scintillating fixture. The play was fast and skilful, the passion was palpable and players and supporters alike loved every second.
Ok, it wasn’t Arsenal – Man City, or Man U – Liverpool.
It was in fact the long-awaited local derby between Basingstoke Care4Calais FC v Reading Care4Calais FC, with teams of refugees and volunteers competing for bragging rights.
Lots of the refugees we help adore football and it’s easy to see why. However good you are, when you’re out on that pitch it’s just you, your mates and that ball; everyone’s equal and, with a bit of luck, anyone can score.
The players at the weekend loved the feeling of release and freedom it gave them. “It felt like the first time I could properly breathe since I arrived here,” one guy said.
This match was taking place as football players, managers and pundits lined up to back Gary Lineker’s criticism of the Government’s anti-refugee rhetoric, and it made me think about why football had sided so strongly with someone sticking up for refugees.
Could it be that football – unlike, say politics – is quite likely to give you a chance based on your ability, not who you are or where you came from? After all, plenty of top players have been refugees themselves. Chelsea didn’t mind that Victor Moses had come to the UK from Nigeria to claim asylum, and Real Madrid were happy to have Luka Modrić on their side after he and his family fled their home in Croatia.
They asked for a chance and were given it irrespective of where they came from.
That’s the polar opposite of this Government’s approach to refugees, which disregards all individual talent or ability and denies a chance to almost everyone except a hand-picked few.
And yet funnily enough football seems to be coping rather well. No wonder people took its side against the Government’s at the weekend. And no wonder we won.
Back on the hallowed turf of the Thames Valley, Basingstoke C4C FC won by a handsome margin, but the return is eagerly anticipated. For Reading C4C FC and for all of us – there is hope.
You can make a difference today by volunteering with us and making activities like this one happen in your community: care4calais.org/get-involved/