Almost five years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy; the local community has been brought together for a one-of-a-kind football tournament to remember the 72 innocent lives lost in the tragic fire of 2017: the Grenfell Memorial Cup.
Paul Menacer, Karim Mussilhy and the Grenfell Foundation organized the day-long event – held at Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium with support from QPR – as a show of unity among people who have been shunned in unimaginable ways by the government.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, football was one of the many ways a broken community began to heal, with the beautiful game helping to raise money for those affected by the fire through ‘Game 4 Grenfell’.
Since then, Grenfell Athletic has been formed, rising from the ashes to provide a positive purpose and serve as a necessary distraction for those affected by the disaster. Growing stronger, the club now find themselves in the Premier Division of the Middlesex County Sunday League.
Last Saturday saw the inaugural Grenfell Memorial Cup, with all 4,000 tickets made available free of charge. The day kicked off at 10am with a five-a-side tournament, with eight U14 teams competing to be crowned champions of the Grenfell Memorial Youth Cup. It was a once in a lifetime experience for many children playing on the QPR turf, in front of a crowd, as Latimer Unity were crowned champions.
An eight-a-side match involving Latimer veterans then followed, highlighting the inclusiveness of the well-organized event, with children interacting alongside older members of their community, all for a positive cause.
It’s hard to put into words how strong these people must have been to keep smiling and coming together to uplift each other. It is even harder to believe that from such devastation so many young leaders have been born and are empowering the rest of the community.
Mentally, Grenfell wreaked havoc across the region, the football helped give many a different focus and distract their minds from difficult thoughts during their 90 minutes on the pitch. Minds United FC entered and won the Mental Health Tournament, the final 5-a-side event of the day.
The Grenfell Memorial Community Cup was perhaps the most anticipated tournament as it involved many local teams; Kensington Dragons, Lancaster West United, Lancaster Voices, AFC South London, Kensington Impact, Eristars, Grenfell Athletic and Westbourne United.
Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and other family members had the heartwarming opportunity to see their loved ones fighting on the ground on behalf of the 72 lives lost. Kensington Impact proved to be the best side of the day, winning the final at 11.
Minds United FC had the chance to claim their second trophy of the day when they faced Grenfell Athletic Women and some special guests.
The foundations for Grenfell Athletic’s women’s and youth teams have been laid and their victory over Minds United in this one-off match will only accelerate the process of building these teams to compete regularly.
Xbox UK has set up a lounge in the media suite for youngsters to enjoy, filled with consoles and special guests for the kids to challenge. AJ Tracey and Elz the Witch stopped by to show their support, playing against the local kids.
Although he didn’t play in the All-Star Game, AJ Tracey felt it was important as one of West London’s biggest icons to come and take the time to the people of his community.
“Even though I didn’t play, it was amazing to come and play Xbox with the kids in my community. It’s amazing to see the good that has come out of such a tragedy. But still, we need justice for Grenfell!
YouTuber Kristen Hanby and boxer David Adeleye also hit up the Xbox Lounge ahead of their All-Star Game.
Some of the biggest names in the UK music scene have been part of an impressive line-up for the North Kensington All-Stars match. Avelino, Big Zuu, Mo the comedian and future local star Benzz are just a few of the names who donned their kit for the charity match. M Huncho was present on the touchline, doing his best impression of Jose Mourinho, as he guided the stars to victory.
Mo Gilligan scored a goal from what appeared to be a cross and a very suspicious goalkeeper, however, David Adeleye scored a ‘world’ which suggested he might be in the wrong sporting profession.
Big Zuu proved hugely popular with the kids in the crowd on their lap of honor, having scooped two BAFTAs two weeks prior.
He understood the significance of the day after growing up in the area and showed genuine support for his community.
“Today it’s more important. The BAFTAs – it’s nice to receive an accolade like that, but caring about your local community is way more important. It’s easy to be involved at the start and it’s even easier to forget – it’s been almost five years now Seeing the community come out and QPR giving us space is so important to show that the love is still there, that it hasn’t been forgotten Grenfell is still in our hearts.
At a very poignant memorial on the center circle of the pitch, the 72 names of those who lost their lives were read and remembered. A 72-second minute of silence was then followed by 72 seconds of applause, reminding the 600 participants and 4,000 spectators why they were gathered.
The day ended with the most important and emotionally raw game, a 72-minute match involving the bereaved and the survivors of the fire, against the “blue lights” of emergency services personnel.
This 11-a-side match was won comfortably by the team of bereaved and survivors, with every goal celebrated with real passion, both on the pitch and in the pockets of the home crowd. As the family members showed their love and appreciation for each other.
On what turned out to be a good day for families in west London, football helped send the message that people will forever remember Grenfell.
Despite the time that has passed since the tragedy, the battle for justice is far from over. The Grenfell Memorial Cup serves an important purpose and has shown the meaning it gives to an entire community.
Photograph by Ben Lister.