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Asylum seekers sent off in community relations soccer match

Players and guests who took part in the tournament. Picture: VERNON STRATFORD
Players and guests who took part in the tournament. Picture: VERNON STRATFORD

ORGANISERS of a community five-a-side football tournament are furious after the sending off of an asylum-seekers’ team was ‘blown out of proportion’ by the national press.

The incident happened during a special sports event on Saturday, organised to help foster community relations in Gillingham

One of the asylum seeker players refused to stop arguing with the referee during one match against Kent Police at the Black Lion Leisure Centre, and his team were shown the red card.

Ironically, the player responsible for the dismissal was a British citizen.

But organisers say the incident did not mar the tournament, which included five other asylum-seeker teams, one of which went on to play in the final. Another went on to win the tournament fair play award.

A distorted version of the events, published in a national Sunday newspaper, angered organisers.

The paper quoted a “police source”, who said the entire team of asylum-seekers had been kicked out of the tournament for rough play.

Event organiser Katrina Jamieson said: “This has been blown out of all proportion. It’s such a shame things should get like this where the behaviour of one person is used to brand a whole team. The day was a great success.

“The player in question has apologised to me and to his team mates.”

Event supporter Steve Hancock said he would be complaining to Kent Police because an officer had, allegedly, contacted the national newspaper.

He said: “I feel let down by the person who contacted the paper. Why stir up bad feelings? You can’t do down a whole team because of one person.”

The captain of the winning team, Yellow Peril, also defended the event as a success.

Mark Harper, from Rochester, said: “It was a really good day. Apart from the one incident everyone played fair. It certainly wasn’t a rough day. It just happened that one person ruined it for everyone else.”

Mr Harper’s said of his opposition, a group of aslyum-seekers newly arrived in the country: “They were all top guys. We all had a bit of banter and shook hands afterwards. It was really enjoyable.”

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