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Football Beyond Borders Community Cup

Words by Alex Stewart
Photography by Will Cornelius

This Sunday saw Football Beyond Borders stage the FBB Community Cup, hosted at Dulwich Hamlet’s ground in Champion Hill, south London, to raise funds and awareness of FBB’s potent mix of football and youth work. The day, which saw a youth tournament, a corporate tournament (in which Pickles FC made a competitive debut), a women’s showcase, and men’s showcase, raised £6000 for the charity, which works with young people to harness the power of football to effect positive change.

Tom Perez, Co-Director and Head of Communications for FBB, told Pickles why each element was important: “The youth tournament was to give the young people from our schools and from the local area the chance to enjoy a football tournament in a safe and positive environment, played in the right spirit and in front of a crowd. It gives them what I feel is important for young people: positive new places, positive new people, and positive new experiences.” The corporate tournament, eventually won by Football Radar, with Sports Interactive coming second, “was a chance for businesses and companies to support FBB financially, but also to engage with the project by being around our coaches and participants, to grow an understanding of our message and what we do on a grassroots level.”

Tom was also delighted to showcase women’s football in the Oxbridge XI vs London XI match, explaining, “Female participation is something FBB believes in: football is the most powerful global language and women have been excluded from that language too much; we are trying to address that. On another level, we want to show the wider public that we care about women’s football and that it’s important.”

Jon Mackenzie, who coached the Oxbridge side, told Pickles: “’This was the sort of match that indicates what Football Beyond Borders is all about: a combined Oxford-Cambridge XI playing against a combined London team. Hearing a group of young lads on the side-lines enjoying the game and being genuinely impressed at the standard is already on track to becoming one of my fondest memories from all my time working in the women’s game.”

Lastly, as Tom explained, “The men’s showcase was about bringing together talented influencers from football, music, the media, people who are passionate about football and who believe that football can play an important role in transforming the lives of young people. These influencers gave their time for free: journalists (including The Guardian’s Owen Gibson), music producers, footballers (including ex-Premier League stars Jamie Lawrence and Leon Cort), and YouTubers.”

Dulwich Hamlet, who provided such a marvellous backdrop to the day, is FBB’s charity partner for the 2016/17 season, but Tom sees that relationship growing: “It’s a fantastic community club and they were so involved and supportive. Dulwich Hamlet is also a safe environment for young people to come and enjoy football at an affordable price. Not many charities can run this kind of event to this scale, and Dulwich helped with that enormously.”

The event was undoubtedly a success, as Tom explained: “We raised £6000 but we need to raise more against a backdrop of cuts, but we feel events like this can help to generate future revenue from further events or donations. We want to grow a community that can support FBB in the future and make it sustainable. It was a unique event for FBB – we’ve never done anything of that scale before and we just feel now we can go bigger and better. It was a sign of things to come.”

Pickles FC, who share a kit sponsor with FBB in the ever-supportive Hummel, were privileged to take part in the corporate tournament, narrowly missing out on a semi-final place losing 1-0 to the eventual runners-up Sports Interactive, who make Football Manager. But we had a brilliant time, playing some good football in front of an engaged and vocal crowd, with some ad-hoc commentary coming from Tom in the stands.

As Tom says, football can break down barriers and drive positive social action. Events like the FBB Community Cup are a reminder of that, a superb day for everyone involved, and Pickles were proud to have taken part.