The FIFA World Cup might have been pushed back from this summer but Northern Ireland hosted its own 'global' tournament thanks to EMSONI.
The Ethnic Minority Sports Organisation Northern Ireland organised its NI Confederation Cup (NICC) in Belfast for 11 weeks, an 11-a-side inter-community football tournament providing competition, culture, and celebration.
The final of the NICC saw Ghana NI defeat the holders East Timor NI 3-2 in front of an estimated 1200 to 1300 spectators at Ulidia Playing Fields in Belfast. Earlier in the day Sudan NI had come from two goals down to clinch the bronze medal by defeating Nigeria NI 3-2 in the third-place final.
The cultures of various teams which had participated in the tournament enhanced the day – Indian and Samba drummers and a bagpipe performer ceremoniously ushered the two finalists out for the final contest, following on from a powerful singer, Siobhan Brown, who composed the anthem for the NICC and sang it for the first time to the delight of the people present.
EMSONI this year became a proud recipient of The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) (MBE). Adekanmi Abayomi, EMSONI's Founder and Chair, said: "The final and the third-place final of the tournament are always hosted within the EMSONI Confederation Festival, which is a community multi-sports day for families to connect, build and sustain stronger community relationships.
"This event is a true reflection of a festivity where families were not only entertained with good football but also music, dance, drum games and a free barbecue and food for all.
"The uniqueness of the EMSONI Confederation Cup is that it focuses on what we share in common and enables people to engage with each other, rather than dwelling on the perceived differences that divide us."
The participating communities included Ghana NI, East Timor NI, Sudan NI, Nigeria NI, Somalia NI, Syria NI, Homeless NI, International NI, East Africa NI, Arab NI, Guinea Bissau NI, Zimbabwe NI, Poland NI, Romania NI, Nepal NI, LGBTQ+ NI, South Belfast Asia NI, Eritrea NI, Limestone NI, and Carryduff NI.
Dr Abena Aduse-Poku, EMSONI's Project Officer, commented: "NI Confederation Cup is not only meant for the ethnic minorities, but also the local communities in Northern Ireland to provide opportunities for grassroots participation and integration.
"Suffolk, Blackstaff, Carryduff, and Limestone are local communities, and they have all participated in this tournament."
Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Tina Black commended EMSONI for organising such a significant tournament, saying: "Within a short period of time, the NI Confederation Cup has become one of Belfast's stand-out summer events. It was a real joy to attend this year.
"So many people came from all parts of Belfast and all parts of the world to watch games right across the city. The NICC is a wonderful example of what Belfast is all about – it's vibrant, fun, inclusive, and welcoming – and it's been a true celebration of Belfast's diversity and the power of sport to bring us together.
"It was also wonderful to meet Alex Iwobi, his father, and the Project 17 team, who visited to help celebrate the work of EMSONI. Alex is such a positive role model for young people, and it was a delight to welcome him to Belfast. Massive congratulations to Adekanmi and the many volunteers behind the Confederation Cup for creating a vibrant and engaging tournament."
Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood said: "the NI Confederation Cup is a top-class community event with a real carnival feel in the games that I watched, including the 2022 final. There was a wide range of stakeholders and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the many people who participated in or contributed to it.
"The sponsors and EMSONI should be proud of this inclusive event which was enthusiastically received by everyone and very well organised. This tournament really does create opportunities for everyone, showing the power that football has to make lives better." Mr Kirkwood also encouraged other members of the football family to take part in some of the games in next year's cup.
The NI Confederation Cup 2022 received the support of Alex Iwobi (Everton FC and Nigeria), who visited Belfast with his Project 17 team.
Before the Ghana NI and Nigeria NI semi-final match that day, a press conference was held at EMSONI's headquarters for Alex before he went to Belfast City Hall where Lord Mayor Black hosted the delegation, with Mr Kirkwood also present.
EMSONI figurehead Abayomi said: "Alex Iwobi brings a lot to Belfast and Northern Ireland in terms of using his success story to inspire our young people and to open Belfast up to more internationals. The more internationals here the better for the visibility of the city."
Lord Mayor Black, presented the trophy to Ghana NI, while Claire Hanna MP decorated the East Timorese with a silver shield and medals.
Sharon Traynor (Radius Housing) and Amanda Ashe (Housing Executive) jointly presented the Sudanese with the bronze shield and medals for achieving third position in the tournament.
The following awards were also presented to some outstanding players, coach, and community:
Fair Play Award: Nepal NI for showcasing positive spirit throughout the tournament;
Best Goalkeeper: Matthew Lendrum (LGBTQ+ NI);
Alex Iwobi Young Player of the Tournament: Abass Asase (Ghana NI);
The Spirit of the Tournament: Emmanuel Okaikwai-Armah (Ghana NI);
Best Coach of the Tournament: Ciprian Bilan (Romania NI);
Golden Boot Award: Jonathan Doyle (Ghana NI) (nine goals);
Player of the Tournament: Ahmed Elneel Mohamed Adam (Sudan NI)
EMSONI'S Dr Aduse-Poku thanked the funders (Radius Housing, National Lottery Community Funds, Belfast City Council, Community Relations Council and Housing Executive) for supporting the project.
or more information, visit https://www.emsoni.org/
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