Last weekend South Asian communities from across West Yorkshire came together to play in an inaugural football tournament organised by lads from a grassroots club in partnership with Bradford Hindu Council.
The tournament was held at the Football World Leeds sports centre on Pontefract Lane and consisted of ten teams.
Cousins Nikhil Lal, 26, Dhiren Lal, 23, from Wakefield, and friends Tejas Patel, 21, and Ryan Patel, 19, both from Leeds, are part of the Yorkshire Leuva Patidar Samaj (YPLS) club that organised the event with help and funding from Bradford Hindu Council (BHC).
Two months ago, the four men went to BHC with the idea to create a tournament that brings different communities from across the county together after playing in their last one more than four years ago.
BHC agreed to the tournament, allocating funds from a pot of money that was given to them from Sporting Equals, a charity that promotes ethnic diversity in sport and physical activity.
The grant from Sporting Equals has also funded other sports days put on by BHC including a six-a-side cricket tournament in September, a beginner’s golf day in October, and a month’s worth of ring and kho kho sessions starting from Sunday 28 November.
The Council is also planning yoga sessions, table tennis, badminton and more in the future.
One of the driving forces behind the tournament, Mr Nikhil Lal, said: “Our motivation to create the tournament came from simply wanting to play. We’ve played in tournaments within our community before, but these have been few and far between, with the last one taking place back in 2017.
“These sorts of events require a lot of time and effort to organise, hence the lack of activity over the last few years.
“We realised that the only way we could play in one was to come together as a group and organise one ourselves and that’s where this all started.”
The group of lads have known each other since birth, with Nikhil and Dhiren’s dads being brothers, and close friends with Tejas and Ryan’s fathers.
Nikhil Lal added: “We’ve been involved with YLPS our whole lives, literally since the day we were born, however, we only became connected with the Bradford Hindu Council very recently.
“We proposed the idea to the BHC, and they agreed to give us funding as per their partnership with Sporting Equals.”
The event was a big success, with the players and the spectators enjoying the tournament equally as much. Nikhil said: “After much preparation and organisation over the last two months, the day finally came and thankfully it is safe to say that it was a great success especially given it was our first time organising and hosting a tournament.
“Several people have fed back to us since saying how much they enjoyed it and how well organised it was.
“Personally, for us as a group, it was great to see a variety of Indian communities coming together to play the sport we all love.”
The team ODB’s captained by Mukesh Patel won the tournament, with the Changa Boys captained by Jayesh Mistry coming in second place.
Bradford-based restaurant Lyceum Bar & Grill provided hot samosas and channa for the event with Indian Women’s Community UK group providing pizzas and chips. Local business K.S Opticians also provided fruit, water, and crisps for the players and their family and friends.
General secretary for BHC, Harkishan Mistry, said: “The tournament was organised through BHC as part of the twenty organisations we have under our umbrella.
“We had a meeting and the youth from YLPS said that they were up for organising this event.
“The four lads found the venue, sorted out the teams and sorted out the criteria, it was all very well organised. They just got on with it.
“They did a fantastic job in organising the tournament. It was a great day out for all teams involved and those who came to watch.
“The event was such a success that we are hoping to carry it on in years to come.”
Mr Harkishan Mistry added: “We funded this tournament in an effort to get people back to normal and interacting with each other. Hopefully, this tournament and other sport sessions we are organising will help improve mental health and physical health, things that were ruined during the pandemic.
Community projects liaison officer for BHC, Dharmesh Mistry, said: “It is important to get communities together because, at this moment in time, communities are struggling.
“Covid-19 has caused all sorts of difficulties. We have lost a lot of people and so we are looking at how to get back out there safely.
“One of the things we are looking at is mental health and how it is at the forefront of everything at the minute.
“For us, and everybody else, it is important to get everyone’s mindsets fresh and healthy.”