Supported by Sported:
Afrimeripean Futsal in Craigavon gives young people from across the community an opportunity to come together and build relationships through futsal.
Promoting unity in diversity: the aim of game for Afrimeripean.
The clue’s in the name, uniting African, Australians, Asians, Americans and Europeans – with every part of the world welcome through their gate by group founders, husband and wife duo CJ and Emily Jones.
Futsal is the glue that binds this community within a community together in Co. Armagh. Religion, race, nationality, all left at the touchline.
“The difference it makes is that it brings kids together from a variety of backgrounds, both Catholic and Protestant, but also from different countries as well, united altogether.
“And it’s just really cool to see them all interact, and build friendships and relationships that otherwise they never would have built. They never would have really crossed paths before..
“It’s really good to see the difference it makes, especially with mental health, as well. It’s just a really good release, to be physically active and be around other people as well.”
CJ, originally from the US state of Georgia, is a role model to a new wave of Northern Irish young people as a person of colour leading a group that attracts many from a wave of immigrant families integrating themselves into the province.
Sport bridges divides. It brings minoritised groups into the fold and Afrimeripean has been able to give its participants a place to play and feel right at home.
There not a lot of black coaches in this country, in general,” CJ acknowledges. “But futsal is great, because then they can see, ‘oh, I can grow up and I can be a coach.’ And I want them to have an impact and they can become coaches too in the future.
“And it’s just been a great opportunity to just really get to know these kids, knowing that we have the same skin complexion and that they can do the same thing too. But I think is great.
“And we have a lot of other coaches, that are of different complexions: black, white, a bit lighter, a bit paler.”
Through John, a Volunteer Consultant, Sported helped the grassroots sport group to access funding and training and get organised behind the scenes.
“Volunteer support enables coaches like CJ and Emily who run the club to learn the skills that they need to be sustainable and to keep delivering great programmes,” underlines Sported’s Northern Ireland manager Judith Rankin.
Similarly, the Barclays Community Football Fund chipped in with bibs and other assistance.
“Those little things that mean a lot to us,” says CJ.
Adds Emily: “Sported was really helpful in helping us deliver our team programme and putting together a club development plan. It’s been brilliant to have that expertise, their experience, just to help drive us forward.”
– Afrimeripean co-founder Emily Jones