Monday, 20 September 2010

Interfaith Sport: Leicester's Boat Race?

With an English Defense League 'protest' looming, everyone in Leicester is talking about how to challenge the confused and often xenophobic ramblings of this rabble. It's a bit of a shame that we have to wait for something like this to set the agenda and jolt us into celebrating the community cohesion that Leicester is supposed to be famous for.

For years there have been many fantastic inter-faith football and cricket matches organised by the St Phillips Centre and also the Community Football Academy. Most 'famous' of these events was the Imams vs Christian Clerics charity cricket match at Grace Road on September 11th (sic) 2006. I was lucky enough to make it along to the match and the friendliness of the whole event was fantastic to witness. As well as the congenial atmosphere between the faith leaders (you could tell they all knew each other well) there was even some good-humoured sledging (Singing of "Kum by Yah" countered by cries of "Allahu Akbar"!).

(photos: Muslim & Christian clerics cricket match Sept 11th 2006, Grace Road, Leicester)

The frustrating thing about these events is that whilst they give us a deserved international reputation for community cohesion they get scant serious coverage in Leicester itself. This is a wasted opportunity. Knowing Leicester's love of sport, a regular high-profile inter-faith cricket or football match has the potential to become Leicester's equivalent to the University Boat Race.

For this to happen both the organisers and city officialdom need to have the imagination and inspiration to capitalise upon it properly. Now would be a good time!

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