Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Rep Your Flag: Football as a vehicle for social change

Posted on 28 October 2021 by Felipe Lima
Rep Your Flag – Photo taken by Ren Fujino

At St. Mary’s University, UK:ME, is a society who is dedicated to the celebration of culture and ethnicities, through interactive events, fun and learning. It hosted the “Rep Your Flag and Soca Fit” event last week, as part of a series of events they organised during Black History Month.

 

The society and its committee have been doing an incredible job at raising awareness to this month with fun, welcoming and engaging events. These include a Black History Month exhibition running from the 18th to the 30th of October, a “Sip and Paint” afternoon session, movie screenings and much more.

 

UK:ME President Ricquelle Williams explained what the society is all about and how the idea for the “Rep Your Flag” tournament originated. The tournament was organised in an intramural format and hosted in the Tennis Hall where all students interested were able to participate.

 

https://twitter.com/ChelseaFCDegree/status/1450462585795526669

 

“We asked a few of Michael Hobson’s male students what we could do to encourage our black male students to be more excited and celebrate their history”.

 

Ricquelle listened to the feedback and after an inspiring conversation with football player, Edson Oliveira, she took to the idea and brainstormed with her committee on how they could host this tournament.

 

Ricquelle is from the Caribbean so she decided to add a bit of flavour to the event and host it in a similar way they do back home. As expected, the day had a lot of high energy, music, dancing, food and a lot of fun. The event was a success with a lot of students taking part in the tournament.

 

Rep Your Flag tournament in action – Photo taken by Ren Fujino

 

“As a society on the whole, we have a lot of aims. The biggest being to help minority ethnic groups in the university to come together as one group and build bridges and share common goals for social justice” she emphasises.

 

Ricquelle hopes these events have a lasting legacy in the university. She aims to pass on her knowledge and enthusiasm to the following years so they can be hosted year after year. She described how she has noticed the increase in ethnic minorities representation throughout her time studying here.

 

“In the three years I’ve been here this is the most ethnically diverse cohort of first year students I have seen come into the university”.

 

How can we help it be easier for male students to talk about Black History?

 

Prior to the “Rep Your Flag” football tournament started I was able to speak with Anthony Murray, who is a member of the society, was heavily involved in setting up the event and help run it.

 

Anthony was excited for the event to start and explained the objectives for the day.

 

“The main thing we are trying to do is have a lasting legacy in each student by bringing them together into this inclusive event.”

 

He went onto to explain how people should confidently represent where they come from.

 

“We are trying to make it comfortable for people so they can come and represent where they are from, England, Jamaica, Africa, South America”.

 

Anthony helping run the event – Photo taken by Ren Fujino

 

Can sport be used as a tool for social change?

 

Another vital person in this campaign, who helped providing the platform for this event to happen was Michael Hobson. Michael, is the lead lecturer for Sport and Social Change Undergraduate course and has praised the student’s efforts in this event.

 

“I think there’s a desire in general from a lot of young people to see change and I think students have skills and knowledge which has the power to bring that about. We couldn’t have put on Rep Your Flag without students.”

 

Similarly, to Ricquelle, Michael has seen a recent change of attitude towards talking about social change and it is now more present in our society and in the St. Mary’s community.

 

“In 2018/19, three networks arose which feel like the catalyst for what we are starting to see today. LGBT+ Staff network, BAME Staff/ Student network and Equality Diversity and Inclusion Committee. When paired with the Black Lives Matter movement, and Covid Lockdowns this seems to have fuelled a greater fire to this.”

 

Michael spoke about how sport can play a role in social change and its effects on young people. He believes it is a useful tool to engage young people to a bigger conversation.

 

“I think it can start conversations and break boundaries, and be the starting point. There’s a lot of work to do, sport can be a starting place but cannot be the final goal”.

 

 

Edson Oliveira, one of Michael’s students and also a member of the UK:ME society, contributed in coming up with the idea for hosting the tournament and participated while represented his home country of Portugal.

 

The footballing ability of the Portuguese cohort at St. Mary’s is well known to Edson and with the help of his skilful compatriots, his team ended up winning the tournament.

 

In an event like this however, there were bigger ambitions and more important achievements to be celebrated. When Edson was asked what impact this event could have and why it is important to have events like this in the university setting, he explained:

 

“An event like this has a positive impact in our university as it brings everyone together and it is important as it can educate people about Black History Month through sport”.

 

Edson helped come up with the idea for the tournament – Photo taken by Ren Fujino

 

As the end of October draws closer and with it so does Black History Month, if you would like to find out more about their upcoming events, you can find the contact details for the UK:ME committee on the St. Mary’s Student Union website or follow the Instagram account @ukmesociety, both linked below.

 

https://www.stmaryssu.co.uk/societies/uk-me-society

 

https://www.instagram.com/ukmesociety/?hl=en

 

For resources, news, interviews and more about Black History Month visit the website below.

 

https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk

 

Stay tuned for more stories relating to the Black History Month coming out in the Sports Gazette before the end of the month.