Belfast People Before Profit held an Anti-Sectarian Cup in the form of a 5-a-side soccer tournament on Wednesday 24th August. Gerry Carroll MLA organised the event in response to a sectarian attack where a young man was left with a broken jaw in the Stewartstown Road area of West Belfast. The tournament took place at the local Colin Park 3G pitches and it was a very successful event with fourteen teams participating from all over Belfast.
Before the tournament commenced, the players lined up and held signs to spell out the key message: Smash Sectarianism. Gerry Carroll MLA briefly spoke to the assembled players, telling them that “we want people coming together, we want people to stand together”. He called for “an end to the divisive tactics of sectarianism” which have been a poison for too long in our society.
There was a terrific display from many teams from across the divide, including our very own People Before Profit team, PBP All Stars. An evening with dozens of goals scored came to an end with the climactic match of Drumbo FC versus Lenadoon. Both teams have to be congratulated on their persistent standard of playing and endurance over several matches. Lenadoon ultimately triumphed 3-2 in what turned out to be a very close match. Lenadoon were presented with the engraved PBP Anti-Sectarian Cup trophy and medals by Gerry Carroll who congratulated the winning team on their well-deserved victory.
Although the tournament was a lot of fun, it was also a demonstration with the serious message that sectarianism has no place in our society. By raising awareness of sectarian attacks occurring, we are able to challenge them in our community. This tournament was a great display of community solidarity which showed people united against such attacks happening.
The mainstream parties perpetuate sectarianism in their narrative of Orange and Green division, intent on reaping the electoral benefits. Their politics is one which emphasises difference rather than unity. Stormont austerity can only serve to exacerbate the sectarian nature of the Northern state and will not put an end to these attacks. Investment and community projects are the way forward, not a decimation of public services where dwindling funding is allocated on a sectarian basis, forcing two sides of the community to compete with one another.
Indeed, with recent figures showing that only 6% of Invest NI’s Belfast funding has been allocated to businesses in the West of the city, it is clear that West Belfast remains a neglected area which is being hit hardest by the growing austerity. What is needed most is a left alternative of inclusive rather than divisive politics to heal this rift in our society.
People Before Profit are delighted by the enthusiasm shown by all participants of the tournament and the great feedback received. After such a successful event, it is likely we will be seeing many more in the future.