A football team from Wrexham which includes refugees and migrant players has joined forces with a police boss in a campaign to kick out hate crime.
This particularly unpleasant form of crime sees people being targeted because of their physical appearance, race, sexual orientation, gender or disability.
Multi-national Bellevue FC, which was formed earlier this year to promote inclusion by bringing together people from a host of overseas countries living in the Wrexham area, will take the field twice in one day next month to highlight National Hate Crime Awareness Week running from October 14 to 21.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones has again teamed up with partners, supported by the Welsh Government, to encourage awareness of hate crime and to urge people to report it where it occurs.
He went along to one of Bellevue FC’s training sessions to commend their stand and described them as the “perfect example of inclusiveness in action”.
The team was the brainchild of football enthusiasts Delwyn Derrick, James Wright, Jon Davies and Damian Walker and is based at Bellevue Park in the centre of Wrexham.
Delwyn said: “Myself and the other lads have been playing Sunday league matches on the pitches at the park for years and started noticing groups of French and German students living in the area while they were at college coming down for a game.
“We then thought it was a good idea to start a team that would be inclusive for people of all nationalities and abilities.
“With help from Sport Cymru we got things up and running last February. We now train every Tuesday and Friday evening and play in the North East Wales Football League.
“We’re a real multi-national outfit and, apart from the British ones, have players from Albania, Romania, Poland, Spain, Italy, Jamaica, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran and Ethiopia. They range in age from 14 to 41.
“We’ve done some recruiting on Facebook but generally people just come along to the park, see us training or playing and ask if they can join in.
“I think we’re providing opportunities for people who don’t normally have them and we’re now quite a little family – although we haven’t yet started winning too many matches.”
To promote Hate Crime Awareness Week, Bellevue FC are to play two friendly games on their home pitch on Sunday October 15 – the first at 11.30am against a team from the Co-operative North Wales, which has provided backing for the team, and the second at 2.30pm against North Wales Police.
Delwyn added: “We built our team to promote social cohesion so combating hate crime is something which is very important to us.
“For a lot of people there is a stigma about where they’re from and the colour of their skin and we don’t want to see this which is why we’re playing these two games.
One of the youngsters who Delwyn says will be on the selection list for one of the two matches is 15-year-old Romarjo Gjoni who came to the Wrexham area from Albania with his family two years ago for a better life and joined the team last Easter.
Now a pupil at Ysgol Clywedog, he said: “I have not experienced it myself but I know hate crime is really bad, so I’ll be glad to play in one of these games to highlight the problem.
“I’ve fitted in very well with the team. We have people from lots of different countries but we all get on very well.
“I play right-back and it’s great to be part of this team. It gives me lots of experience which is good because I want to be a professional footballer one day.”
Also in the Bellevue line-up on October 15 will be 15-year-old winger Kuba Kosiak who is originally from Poland and moved to Wrexham with his family at the age of three.
“We came to Wales because things are better for us economically and I really like living here and going to Ysgol Clywedog,” he said.
“I found out about the football team from my friends and joined earlier this year.
“Everyone knows that hate crime is really bad, so I’m glad to do anything I can to support the campaign against it.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones said: “This is all about communities coming together in a spirit of inclusion and this team are a perfect example of inclusiveness in action.
“There are many different nationalities represented amongst the players but they all get on together very well.
“If more people got together like this there would be a lot less hate crime, or just general conflict.
“Hate crime is one of those offences which causes a lot of distress. If you’re picking on people or committing offences against them because of their religion or colour of their skin it causes a lot of bad feeling.
“It is a serious crime and we must address it. The team are to be commended for taking a stand against it and I’ll be at Bellevue Park on October 15 to cheer them on.”
He added: “In this year’s awareness week the same key message will be promoted – hate crime will not be tolerated in North Wales.
“Everyone has a duty to speak out against hate crime. Even if you think an individual incident is a small thing you should still report it, because if incidents are repeatedly happening to you or someone you know then the effect can be massive.”
Hate Crime should be reported by calling North Wales Police on 101 (999 in the case of an emergency) or contact Victim Support on 0300 30 31 982 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Further information is also available online www.reporthate.victimsupport.org.uk .