By Rohingya Community Ireland

Despite being rivals on the pitch, both Rohingya and Syrian have experienced and swum across similar oceans of man-made nightmares in Burma and Syria

DUBLIN: As Irish summer shone on Sunday, various teams ranging from resettled refugees, media, and governmental and non-governmental organizations came together in Law Society Gardens, Dublin, displaying and enjoying support and integration through football.

Participating the 8th Annual World Refugee Day Fair Play Football Cup organized by UNHCR Ireland and Sport Against Racism Ireland – SARI, was Rohingya Community Ireland’s own football team, Rohingya Football Club Ireland.

The team is made up of Rohingya youngsters aged between 15 and 21, who are resettled in Ireland from Bangladesh refugee camps in 2009 under the resettlement programme coordinated by the government of Ireland and UNHCR.

The players team photo at the start of Fair Play Football Cup

The community team played their first match against Clondalkin winning by one goal, and they met Ballaghaderren team 2 who too were defeated by the score line of 2 to 1. The players of Ballaghaderren are Syrian refugees recently resettled the town, who escaped the ongoing Syrian Civil War.

Despite being rivals on the pitch, both Rohingya and Syrian have experienced and swum across similar oceans of man-made nightmares in Burma and Syria.

On the side-line were the energetic young Rohingya girls cheering their team with many of their faces painted at a face-painting booth installed for children to cherish and enjoy the tournament. And also their parents supporting the team.

Jamalida Rafique painting the face of a volunteer
Mohammed Rafique in centre enjoying football with his daughter Waheeda (L) and Hafsa Alam (R)

The team was eliminated in the quarter final conceding two goal against Kilkenny Tigers, who were then beaten by Street League Ireland in the thrilling penalty shootouts after no team found winning goal in the extra time. And St. May FC won the women trophy.

Upon seeing the dejected players, Mohammed Rafique reminded the youngsters of the difficult journey of the community from the refugee camps in Ireland. “We are all proud of you for your continuous dedication and hardwork. Everything has a gradual progress. We have seen it in our team. We are slowly climbing on that progress, and one day, you can all reach that height and bring the trophy in our home Carlow. Today, we go home with something positive having met with different communities and learnt the positivity behind standing united against racism and hatred in this wonderful country,” Rafique encouraged the youths.

Minister of State for Justice at the Department of Justice and Equality David Stanton was introduced to the Rohingya team by Jory Clarke and Enda O’Neill of UNHCR Ireland. He listened the journey and integration of the community in Ireland.

UNHCR Ireland staffs – Caroline Stephens, Enda O’Neill, Jody Clarke and Susan McMonagle (from R to L)

Rafique told Minister David Stanton that it was due to the love and support of local communities and organizations, that the Rohingya community quickly adjusted in their new home Carlow. The minister said that he was aware of the success of Carlow Cricket Club and the involvement of the community, and always wants to apply the successful integration across the country.

The launch of new football kit by Annette Fox of Carlow Integration Forum and Carlow County Development Partnership at Carlow Regional Youth Centre

At the Fair Play Football tournament, Rohingya Football Club Ireland wore the new kits sponsored by Carlow Integration Forum, a local organization which represents more than 30 different nationalities working in integration and creating “a sense of belongingness” in county Carlow.