Observations by SJFA Interviewer – Kumail Jaffer

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.” (Quran – 49:13)

As this Quranic verse was read out to all present during the opening ceremony, it was telling that despite all recent events that may have sparked tensions between communities, this was having quite the opposite effect. Teams from Belmont, Indian Gymkhana and the Chalfont Academy all sat alongside the always well-represented Khoja Shia Itshnasheri community, who themselves came from round the country.

As the tournament roared on with little hiccup, I was fortunate enough to interview many people involved with the event, and gather testimonials from the recipients. The FA’s Equality and Diversity Manager and the Chalfont Director of Football were complimentary about the motive behind the tournament, and execution of the day itself.

With academy teams like Chalfont being represented, the football was of a high standard across all ages. Shabbar Dhalla of the World Federation noted, “As a Parent, it was humbling and a proud moment to see the kids having made huge progress in they way they play as individuals and also as a team! I was there last year and this year as well, the improvement has been tremendous and the trajectory has been amazing for the kids!”

What was perhaps the most important notion here, was that of interfaith comradery. Ever since the Khoja community arrived from East Africa back a few decades ago, there hasn’t always been the greatest efforts to associate with other communities and faiths. When asked President of the KSIMC, Mustafa Jaffer, about future plans to do so, he said Stanmore were taking concrete steps towards future integration and assimiliation.

I can remember when Stanmore Jafferys Football was starting up – a more closed, intracommunity activity (as it was compelled to be for its size). To see SJFA not only holding events like these, but also integrating teams into various FA leagues and building a really strong foundation for a home-grown football academy is encouraging to all who have been there from the beginning. From the organisers to the coaches to the volunteers, it’s been a real people’s movement to build the project – and how we must thank the volunteers (or in this case, ‘Salamteers’). Rather than self-appraisal, I will just note some comments from attendees instead. One said “Please tell your salaamteers well done and thank you for being great hosts. You guys deserve a trophy”, another commented “I would like to send my sincere thanks to all of you for the fantastic day we had today and my boys had a great time” and another wanted “to convey a Big “BRAVO” to all at SJFA for putting up a great event on such a big scale.”

This was not only a momentous day for Stanmore Jafferys, it was a step forward, an example of what communities of all faiths need to do going forward. It is only through collaboration that we can end prejudice.