Schoolchildren across Glasgow will have the chance to show off their footballing skills this May as part of a tournament that also brings them lessons in equality and understanding.
More than 500 primary seven youngsters will take part in A League for All Tournament at the Petershill Complex in Springburn.
Each school’s team of five will be drawn from a pool of 10 players, and organisers hope that linking the beautiful game to issues of race, gender, co-operation and competition will be an education for the children.
Tommy Breslin, of action group Show Racism the Red Card, said: ‘Football is a very important tool in helping tackle racism. We look at our football teams, they’re largely multicultural, multi ethnic, multi faith, multinational positive working environments and the fan base reflects that as well.
‘We’re delivering a lot of anti Islamophobia workshops in secondary schools in the Glasgow area, and the young people again are listening to us and the responses that are coming back are pretty positive. They’re questioning their assumptions, their attitudes and the peer pressure that’s put upon them.
‘Glasgow’s always been a very diverse society and I think that can only be a positive for the city.’
Besides SRRC, Glasgow City Council, Partick Thistle, the Scottish Refugee Council, the Jags Trust, the Scottish Fair Trade Forum and trade union Unison are backing the initiative.
Former Jags player Jim Duffy – now manager of Brechin City and a big supporter of community campaigns in football – wants to see teams work harder to reach out to potential fans from all backgrounds.
He said: ‘I think it’s long overdue that players get a bit more involved in the community, particularly the primary schools because they are still seen as role models – whether they like it or not. They go into the schools, the kids love it and I think eventually all the clubs will take part.’
Jim added: ‘We pride ourselves in being a diverse country, but it’s not all about that. For too long football clubs have just opened the doors and expected people to come to them, but these are changing days. They have to work harder and it is happening.
‘Unfortunately, as is the way with football, when there’s something negative it gets lots of publicity; when there’s something positive it gets little publicity, so we’ll chip away at it and
encourage more people to take part.’
The May tournament will precede Refugee Week Scotland, which takes place in June. The nine schools participating in A League for All are St Paul’s Primary, Blairdardie Primary, St Ninian’s Primary, Yoker Primary, Bankhead Primary, St Brendan’s Primary, Corpus Christi Primary, Garscadden Primary and Knightswood Primary.
Alison Burns, acting Principal, Knightswood Primary, said: ‘Obviously, football is going to be high on any 11-year-old’s list of priorities, so we feel that by teaching about racism, sexism, and sectarianism through football we’re going to capture their attention. They’re enthusiastic about participating in the programme and because football is played regularly within the school we think this will bring another aspect to our PE.’