RITC host European mental health tournament

A team representing Australia came out on top in the recent European Association for Sport and Social Integration (EASI) World Cup at Oakwell.

The two-day event, which brought together 25 teams from England and Scotland as well as mainland Europe, is an annual tournament organised with the aim of raising awareness of mental health issues and learning difficulties.

On Tuesday 12th and Thursday 14th June, sides from countries such as the Czech Republic, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, as well as the UK, met at Oakwell to celebrate overcoming mental illness through the power of sport.

Australia, who was made up of a refugee team dubbed the ‘Afro Boys,’ won the ‘gold final’ against a side from Everton in the Community to seal tournament victory, having progressed as winners of their group on the Tuesday.

There was also a secondary competition for teams who didn’t progress from their groups in day one of the competition.

A team from Rotherham United Community Sports Trust won the ‘silver final.’

The EASI is a group made up of health and community groups from 12 European countries who promote sport to improve the well-being of people with mental health issues and learning disabilities.

Each year, they host a football tournament which brings together teams and aids social integration through the power of sport.

Hannah Burton, of the South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, organised the event and was understandably full of pride at the tournament’s success.

She said: “I feel very proud and very privileged to be a part of such as prestigious tournament. Seeing the teams and individuals overcoming their mental health problems is just amazing. You’re looking at up to 500 people, all who have experience with mental health issues. We think it’s amazing and we hope that people share that same opinion. We are bringing lots of diverse cultures together in this town. You don’t need to be able to speak the language to play football, it speaks for itself.”

The Mayor of Barnsley formally opened the EASI World Cup after Hoyland Community Choir had performed a moving rendition of ‘you’ll never walk alone’ – a song which perfectly summed up the coming together of the hundreds of attendees through football.

Cllr Steve Green was delighted to see such a huge event being hosted by Reds in the Community and the town of Barnsley.

He said: “It’s good to get this down to Oakwell and in Barnsley. It’s good to see so many teams here and competing from different parts of Europe. It’s very good because it puts Barnsley on the map. We’re living in the shadow of two cities but yet they’ve chosen Oakwell for this which is absolutely fantastic. I’ve met people from Holland, met someone from Norway and from Sweden, it’s very good for the town. It does raise awareness because a lot of people won’t know about these issues but now they will.”

Alongside the football tournament, there has also been cricket, penalty shoot-outs, face painting and bouncy castles on an indoor pitch.

RITC Social Inclusion Officer Hannah Philips was pleased to see hundreds of people descend on Oakwell for the event, all leaving with a smile on their face.

Hannah said: “It’s brilliant for Reds in the Community. We’ve got players from Europe and this country, obviously a team from Barnsley as well. It’s great to see so many people taking part in the event. People that are coming down are seeing how many people are affected by mental health, even if not themselves but through supporting someone else – it’s raising awareness in the local community as well. I think everyone’s had a great time.”