It has been a tough time for sport, with allegations of systemic doping and corruption rampant of late. However its reach & popularity are undeniable. Moreover, it can have the profound effect of bringing people together and assisting in backing great causes.
Many at Champion Hill had the same thought, as Dulwich Hamlet FC lined up against FC Assyria in a charity match to raise money for refugees in France.
Known by some as ‘the most hipster football club in London’ Dulwich Hamlet are a club known for tackling social & helping some of the least fortunate, and played a football match to raise awareness of homophobia last year.
This past year have seen migrants from Syria flee war and destruction, with a number stuck in refugee camps in France, a cause which has resonated strongly with the fans of Dulwich Hamlet.
Manager Gavin Rose feels that he and his players had a duty to use their position to help others:
“I think sometimes everyone needs to use football as a bigger tool to show everyone what’s really happening in society.
“There’s a bigger picture to life and there are people who are less fortunate than we are, and sometimes it puts things into perspective.”
There was perhaps no better opponent for Dulwich Hamlet than FC Assyria. Based in Ealing, the club was formed in the 1960’s by Assyrians in diaspora who came to London .
There can be much confusion between Syrians and Assyrians, however while Syrians are mostly Muslims, Assyrians are Christians and have their own language and traditions.
Assyria was a Mesopotamian Kingdom, which once stood in what is modern day Syria, Iraq & Turkey.
Many of the players from FC Assyria have members of family in that area of the Middle East, which has experienced great war and turmoil in the past five years, and felt they couldn’t turn a blind eye:
“Our hearts goes out to everyone that’s still there,” FC Assyria captain Martin Benjamin told us. “Stuff like this brings us together and hopefully we raise enough money for the charities.”
All money raised would be split between the British Red Cross Syria Appeal and the Southwark Refugee Communities Forum.
But also in attendance were a group of Dulwich Hamlet fans who have pioneered their own way of helping refugees, setting up an initiative known as Dulwich2Dunkirk.
They called on their fellow fans to donate food which they send to refugees in France. Their volunteers have been to Calais and Dunkirk several times in the past taking food, clothing and other necessary supplies to those who need them.
With over 5,000 refugees estimated to live in the Calais ‘Jungle’ according to Help Refugees, Nisha Damji believes every time they go is a constant reminder of how necessary their work is:
“The conditions are absolutely appalling, utterly filthy. There are rats, there’s rubbish, human faeces, and there’s children living around that.”
With plenty of food gathered, they crossed the channel last weekend to ensure it would all be put to good use.
Oh, and to those with an eye on the pitch, Dulwich Hamlet beat their lower-league opponents 3-1.