The team coached by Neil Murphy defeated Poland comfortably in the final of Christchurch Global Football tournament on February 27 at the Christchurch Football Academy. Three teams from the Indian sub-continent - Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan also featured in the top-six.
The reigning champions Irish Rovers, who won the trophy in 2015 as well, defeated Poland in the final of the Christchurch Global Football Tournament (CGFT) held at the Christchurch Football Academy on February 27.
Started in 2003 as a forum to bring people from different nationalities living in Christchurch together, this year's CGFT witnessed participation from over 600 players divided into 20 senior teams, eight under-18 teams, and six under-14 teams.
Dariusz Wieclawski, who was part of the six-member organising committee, and worked with the Polish Embassy in officially hosting the tournament this year noted, “In my opinion, it's the most culturally diverse event in Christchurch, which has grown leaps and bounds over the last decade. Where else would you find somebody from Tunisia living in Christchurch.” He was referring to Ramzi Toumi, captain of the Polish team who came to New Zealand in 2006 and works as a financial adviser here.
Meanwhile, Neil Murphy, coach of the victorious team, while receiving his winning medal noted, “I am proud to be the most successful coach in the history of this tournament. Hopefully, we can win the trophy next year as well to make a hat-trick of victories.”
“In my over a decade of association with the tournament, I can say that the event has grown leaps and bounds,” he added.
Ollie Barrow, captain of Cavaliers – a team with players from South America, Ireland, Scotland and even Serbia, and which was beaten by the Rovers in the first semi-final 2-1, explained, “I can safely say that this tournament plays a hugely appreciative role in challenging the notion that Christchurch lacks diversity.”
Meanwhile, even though they didn't win the trophy, three teams from the Indian sub-continent Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan, showcased the passion that part of the world has for the “beautiful game”. While Javidan – a team comprising of Afghan expats was defeated by Poland in the semi-final, Bhutanese Lhotshampa lost to Fijians in the Shield Final. The Goblet Final had similar heart-break for the sub-continent when Nepal lost to the more professional Koreans.
Akash Drukpa, team manager and captain of the Bhutanese team and also a member of the Bhutanese Society of Christchurch said, “This is the first time we have entered a team from Bhutan. Earlier all our players used to play for the Nepal team. But now that over 300 Bhutanese are living in Christchurch, we manage to form our own team.”
Omid Rajabi, captain of the Afghani team, who has been in Christchurch for the last 13 years and works as a builder added, “Football is a very popular sport back home. In fact, some of us, including me, play club football during the season here in Christchurch. So apart from the cultural diversity this event brings, we also get to learn different styles of play especially the English and South American, which help us in improving our game.”
The Nepalese team was especially mentioned during the prize distribution ceremony as being the one with participation at every edition of the tournament till date. Hem Gelil, who is a glazier and immigrated to New Zealand in 2008, and captains the Nepalese team exclaimed, “A great honour! It goes on to show the passion we have for the game.”
Inspector Hirone Waretini, who is in-charge of Canterbury Police Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services Group (MPES), and was behind the Police Department's full support to the tournament had the last words, “Football is a universal language. Our involvement in this event shows that Canterbury Police values diversity in our communities and will help immigrants in integrating in New Zealand in whichever way possible.”