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Bristol's World Cup Bid Brings Communities Together . . . On The Football Field
Bristol, UK, August 15, 2009 – With the possibility of 2018 World Cup football on the horizon, Bristol's police showed this weekend how the sport can help bring the city's diverse communities closer together.
On Sunday, a team of policemen swapped their uniforms for football kit at the City Academy in Bristol and faced a Somali side in the first of a series of matches designed to build relationships.
Police officers from Barton Hill and Easton, where there is a large Somali community, have been working with the Somali Development Group to establish links outside of working hours and develop friendships and a greater understanding of each other.
PC Tom Gent, who helped set up the match, said: "Events such as this football match are a great way of breaking down barriers and enabling young people to look past the uniform."
His superior, Superintendent Julian Moss, was on hand to present trophies to both teams and urged the England 2018 World Cup bid team to take note of such projects.
Bristol is in the running to become a host city and Mr Moss believes success would spark a greater number of community projects such as this one.
He said: "Sport is one of the great mediums that brings people of all faiths and nationalities together. It's a great opportunity for members of the neighborhood policing team to get to know people living in their local communities better in a fun and informal atmosphere.
"Bristol has great sporting talent and the opportunity that a successful bid would bring Bristol would be amazing, both in terms of prestige around the city and for Bristol's communities to participate in a big festival of sport.
"We had a game recently with a Hartcliffe team which was also a success. All our officers at Trinity Road have had training on the Somali culture and it's as a result of this that we organized the game through the Somali Development Group. It's a great chance for us to see the human side of each other."
Dalmar Osman of the Somali Development Group was full of praise for the initiative, and emphasised his community's wholehearted backing for Bristol's 2018 World Cup bid. He said: "The young people were all really excited about the match.
It is an opportunity to build mutual respect with the police.
"Somalis don't know any other sport than football. All the time back home Somalis watch English football.
"You won't see any Somalis who say they like cricket, it's all about football, football, football. 2018 would be an opportunity for them to see it first hand here in Bristol and would be another point of conversation to share with all the other communities in Bristol.
"We are teaching the young Somalis with our projects to respect social cohesion and to understand the police's role. Hopefully now, when they see each other in the street they will see beyond the uniform, respect each other more and understand each other."
Both Mr Osman and Superintendent Moss hope the match will become a regular fixture and are looking at expanding the idea across the city.
Bristol will have another chance to impress the England bid team when they visit on September 10, and will hear whether the city has been selected in December when the Football Association will choose approximately 12 cities from the 15 applicants.
Have you registered to support England's 2018 World Cup bid? Go to www.thisisbristol.co.uk/worldcup.
Source: This is Bristol, August 10, 2009