Grassroots football teams came together in support of Fairtrade Fortnight as Hackney Wick FC won the first ever Fairtrade Cup.
As one of five teams to enter the Fairtrade tournament at Mabley Green on Saturday 4 March, the Wickers recorded comfortable wins over London Bari FC and GD STP on their way to the trophy, which included an emphatic 4-0 win against the latter in the final.
The success of the men’s team was matched by Hackney Wick FC Ladies, who also secured the Women’s Cup with a dominant 3-0 win over Goal Diggers FC in the first fixture of the day.
Organised by club in collaboration with members of Hackney Council and the Hackney Fairtrade Group, the tournament was established with the aim of supporting and promoting fair trade.
“As a community club, we really want to show that football can give people hope and we want to use the sport as a vehicle for good causes”, said Brian Akintokun, the Community Development Director at Hackney Wick FC, “so when the opportunity came to do something around fair trade, we couldn’t wait to get involved.”
The Fairtrade Cup was the Wickers’ latest project, with the team building on the success of last year’s Hackney Cup for Health.
As a club that does a lot of work off the pitch, organising and promoting community events, Akintokun said that it has been encouraging for Hackney Wick to see other grassroots teams supporting their projects.
“It’s been really great to see so many teams getting involved,” he added. “Everyone seems to have really taken inspiration from our grassroots movement.”
One of the most important features of the day was the use of fair trade footballs, which were provided by Bala Sport.
Emma Kirton, a member of the Hackney Fairtrade Group who helped to organise the event, said: “We wanted to be able to reach out to the community to talk about fair trade other ways than food and drink, which gets a lot of the focus.”
“After making the initial connection with Bala, we decided that we wanted to do something with the footballs,” she added. “That’s how the Fairtrade Cup came about.”
Like 70 per cent of the world’s footballs, the ethically-sourced game-balls are hand-stitched in Pakistan. However, unlike many other manufacturers, Bala guarantees its workers in Sialkot a fair wage, good working conditions, and a 10 per cent fair trade premium.
“It is no secret that the majority of workers in Pakistan who produce footballs work in absolutely atrocious conditions”, said Councillor Clare Potter, a strong advocate of fair trade in Hackney and one of the champions of the Fairtrade Cup.
“This is a very tiny step in the right direction to start to readdress that balance and we want to support Bala and other firms who are helping to encourage fair working conditions out in Pakistan.”
Meanwhile, Hackney Wick FC’s founder and director of football Bobby Kasanga said the club had jumped at the chance to cooperate with the fair trade co-operative.
“I think it’s important that people in all countries, whether first-world or third-world countries, get an equal share of the money they deserve,” said Kasanga.
“Using Bala’s fair trade footballs not only allows more people to earn a fair salary, but it also encourages more people to buy fair trade products. In buying the Bala balls, you know that people are not getting exploited in third-world countries, where so many kids are working in factories instead of going to school.”
Although football is Hackney’s focus for this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight, Cllr Potter said that Bala’s wide selection of other sports balls, such as rugby balls and basketballs, offers chances for expansion in the future.
“We are largely focussing on footballs this time,” explained the councillor for Brownswood. “However, Bala also offers lots of other sports balls, so we look forward to engaging with a wider range of sports in the future.”
In addition to a day of football, the spectators were treated to a stall offering up a range of fair trade products, such as a selection of oranges which were donated by the Cooperative in Pembury Circus.
The purpose of the stall was to try and educate people about which products are fair trade in the hope that they will be inspired to keep buying them.
“When people feel good about doing their bit, they are likely to do that bit more,” explained Cllr Potter. “The more aware people are about which products are Fairtrade, the more likely they are to buy them.”
“Next Fairtrade Fortnight we would like to concentrate on the fashion world and local grocery businesses, who often sell fair trade products but aren’t aware of it,” the councillor concluded. “Our main aim is to ensure that everyone feels that they can contribute to fair trade in a meaningful way.”
(Top image credit: Hassan Rashed/Hackney Post)