For five years, the Mandip Mudhar Memorial Tournament has looked to raise awareness of charities such as Friends of Bright Eyes and Keech Cottage Children's Hospice and the latest event was no different.
The tournament, which this year welcomed an unprecedented 40 teams to the tournament, has grown in size every year since it has been played in memory of football-mad Mandip Mudhar, who was killed in a car accident on New Year's Day 2001, aged 20.
|A minute's silence began the tournament|
At 10.29am on Sunday 14 August, the football pitches at the Vauxhall Recreation Centre fell silent. Friends and family remembered their loss, and they were joined by players, supporters and dignitaries, who also spent a moment alone with their thoughts. It was a touching moment as a crowd of nearly 500 people observed the minute's silence impeccably, a fitting tribute to a young man loved by many.
"Positivity out of tragedy, that's all as a family we've tried to do since Mandip's passing and it all started when we decided to donate his heart and two kidneys in order to prolong the lives of others" said brother Bobby, chief organiser of the tournament.
"Throughout his young life Mandip had friends from all backgrounds and I wanted him to have the same when he passed away and the yearly tournament not only brings together his friends when he was with us but also people from all over the country who represent many communities in Luton and outside.”
"Additionally, we try to raise awareness of organ donation amongst ethnic minorities, promote ethnic diversity in Luton, raise money for local charities and develop opportunities for members of different communities to pursue careers in football such as refereeing and coaching" added Bobby.
"The tournament was a testament to Luton's rich culturally diverse community uniting and sending out a positive message of integration and peace. In the process we managed to raise money for local charities and hopefully raise their profile and the great work they do.”
Rain was trying its best to ruin the day but apart from the occasional downpour, the action on the pitches remained furious.
On the sidelines, team members mingled freely with others, sharing a joke as they took time-out from their duties on the field.
The quarter-finals were tense, forgettable affairs, the importance of the tournament reflected in cagey displays by the teams. All four matches went to penalties with reigning champions Marsh Farm beating OM Youth 3-2 in their clash, the only one which had any goals.
There was a sense of anticipation in the air as Sikh Sambas took on the title holders in the semi-finals. Three members of the Unpredictables team that were beaten by Marsh Farm in last year's competition had made the move back to Sikh Sambas and were gunning for victory to make up for the disappointment of the previous summer.
The threat of Mutashin Miah, player of the tournament in 2004, was tamed with the Luton team a shadow of the one that impressed with free-flowing adventurous football last year. Sikh Sambas scraped past 5-3 on penalties and set the scene for an encounter with Captain Ray's Army, in the final.
Paul Amoah, the gangly striker, had won plaudits for his sportsmanship in 2004 when he led the Unpredictables to the final, and it was his solitary goal that won it for Sikh Sambas. The side from Leicester, industrious and workmanlike the whole day, had beaten the Birmingham team, who looked like a day of gruelling contests had taken their toll on their weary limbs.
Amoah said: "I would not say that my goal was the best in the world, in fact, I'm rather embarrassed by it. It was rather scrappy but I suppose that they all count."
|Winners pose with Abid Hussain and Julie Butcher|
Mayor Abid Hussain presented the winners' trophy to the Midlands team and handed Sikh Sambas' midfield workhorse Seid Sejdic with the player of the tournament accolade.
For Kully Sagoo, one of the losers in 2004, it was reward for a collective attitude of togetherness.
"The team spirit in this side is something special. It is what helped us to win the tournament" said the defender.
But for Bobby, he has cast his gaze further ahead to the development of the organisation in years to come.
“This year could not have been made possible without the support of the Bedfordshire Football Association, Luton Council of Faiths and Vauxhall Recreation Centre" he said.
“We aim to make our next event even bigger and are already looking forward to planning for it.”
Photographs by Jagdiv Singh Greval