In an extraordinary and historic World Cup final on Tuesday night, the USA beat Australia (4-2) in a nail-biting match.
‘Er, isn’t that a few weeks premature?’ I hear you cry, ‘And moreover, USA and Australia even getting past the first round?’ OK, so this was a Alternative World Cup Table Football Tournament held at the Refugee Council, where 20 teams of young refugees, asylum seekers, and supporters took to table football pitches with gusto, to defend a country of their choice.
The whistle blew for the first round, and the competition instantly rose high with Ghana and Australia coming to the fore as clear frontrunners. A team of Nike Gamechangers volunteers were on hand as referees for the matches, ensuring no spinning and no suspicious sub-changes took place.
Each game was just four minutes long, but long enough to see high scores and higher tempers. Japan, Australia, USA and Brazil eventually reached the semi-finals where they upped their game for the tense round in a bid to reach the final.
Everyone crowded round for the nerve-wracking final between USA and Australia. For the first two minutes the teams were neck-and-neck with two goals each, with excellent defence from both sides. But USA gave themselves hope of a positive result in the third minute when they scored another great goal, and went on to score their last one in the final minute.
The runners up were two young refugees who are regulars at the Refugee Council social evening. “It was fun, very challenging playing different teams. Germany and USA were definitely the hardest teams,” said Mohammed. “We only lost one game!”
The winners, from Student Action for Refugees, were triumphant. “A victory for students and refugees everywhere!” James from STAR said. “Thanks to everyone who organised the tournament. Everyone played like a star!”
Many of the teams who played last night will also be playing in the 5-a-side Alternative World Cup Football Tournament which will take place on 20 June in London as part of the Refugee Council’s celebrations for Refugee Week (14-20 June). Last night, one young person helped draw the teams to play at this tournament from an official velvet FA bag.
It’s all part of the Simple Acts Campaign, where we ask everyone to do a simple thing – like playing football with a refugee – to help change perceptions of refugees and show refugees they are valued and welcome here. So why not have a kick about with a refugee from 14-20 June and tell us about it here: www.refugeeweek.com/simple-acts? In between watching the real World Cup that is…!