FOOTBALL will unite asylum seekers, refugees and migrants at a tournament in Oxford to encourage community integration next month.

Teams of people who have fled war torn, famine and poverty in countries across the world will line-up to play in the first ever United Oxford Cup, with the winning side being presented with the trophy at the Kassam Stadium.

The eight-a-side teams are made up of refuges, asylum seekers and migrants from East Timor, Algeria, Nigeria, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and Kurdistan and will take place on Sunday, May 7 from 9.30am at the Iffley Road Sports Ground, Oxford.

Ben McFadyean, from Headington, is a key driving force behind the tournament and said he decided to organise the event after becoming ‘inspired’ by the change football can have on people’s lives from when he volunteered to work with refugees in Ethiopia.

He said: “It’s wonderful how football is a universal language in these difficult times an how it can bring people together in a community and can make such a huge difference.

“I really think our city Oxford is coming together with all these charities. It just really means so much for me.”

Mr McFadyean thanked Oxford United chairman Darryl Eales for his ‘personal engagement’ in helping the refugees, by providing the cup presentation and match tickets for a game next season.

The organisers, participants and representatives charities involved, which include Oxfordshire Mind, Asylum Welcome, Refugee Resource and Oxford United, gathered with Oxford East MP Andrew Smith at the Iffley Sports Ground on Wednesday to launch the event.

As well as bringing people from all over the world together, the tournament will raise money to send a junior team from East Oxford United Football Club to go travel to play at an event in the city’s Russian twin Perm.

The new FA-affiliated club was invited to compete in a summer camp tournament in Perm and needs to raise funds for the children to be able to get travel visas.

Club chairman Hasan Sabrie said: “The whole tournament aims to bring people together and people who have never played before.

“I want to keep this legacy and do it again next year.”

Mr Sabrie said the junior football club needed to raise about £3,500 for the trip to Perm, which they missed out on last summer due to paperwork issues.

He added: “It will mean a lot to the kids. Some have never been out of the country before so this would be their first time.

“It’s all for the kids of East Oxford United.”

Mr Smith said he thought the tournament idea was ‘fantastic’,

He added: “There is enormous support in Oxford. They are people from war torn countries and have been through some very difficult times.

“I think it really helps with integration and it helps both local people and themselves think of them not as refugees but as people. We are all people at the end of the day.”

Dan Knowles, chief executive of Oxfordshire Mind said he hoped the tournament would ‘not just be a one-off event’.

He added: “It can be really tough for asylum seekers, refugees and new migrants integrating into mainstream life in Oxford, and what a better way to doing this than through football.”