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Unity FC: Football an 'international language' in refugee team

image copyrightUnity FC
image captionUnity FC have players from 15 different countries

The manager of a football team which includes refugees from 15 different countries says the sport has proven to be an "international language".

Unity FC started 18 months ago and now play in Division 3 of the Suffolk and Ipswich League.

Manager Clem Turner said the players' varied backgrounds and languages had not prevented them from gelling.

"Everyone understands football, training sessions, drills and... how to play to win," he said.

Mr Turner set up the club through his work with Suffolk Refugee Centre and has been managing them during their first competitive season, in the 13th tier of English football.

"It's been wonderful seeing the development from a raw state to becoming an affiliated football club," he said.

The players are aged between 17 and 28 and come from countries including Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Morocco, Syria, Portugal and Iraq.

Like all football below elite level, Unity FC's season has been suspended because of the Covid-19 lockdown.

image copyrightUnity FC
image captionUnity FC now play in in Division 3 of the Suffolk and Ipswich League

They had a mixed start to their debut campaign, winning three, drawing one and losing four matches.

"It's been hard work, it's been challenging, but the reward is there," said Mr Turner.

He said some of the team had not played organised football before so there was the "odd occasion where they do not understand the rules of the game, but nothing major".

Unity FC has been supported by charities Inspire Suffolk and Ipswich Rotary Club, as well as Ipswich Town Football Club, who gave them a new kit and allowed them to train at Portman Road as part of an initiative from Amnesty International.

Mr Turner says he is now looking to build on the club's "positive" start.

"We have got a five-year plan in place and we want to add more teams to the club," he said.

Omar Adam came to England four years ago from Sudan and currently studies at Suffolk New College, as well as playing in midfield for Unity FC.

"I used to play when I was young," he said. "Football is everything to me.

"Now we have a football team and it is just unbelievable."

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Related Topics

  • Refugees and asylum seekers
  • Ipswich

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