One team, 13 countries ...One Love United
A multi-cultural football side is on a mission to prove that Love can conquer all.
And if One Love United, who have drawn their players from all corners of the globe, carry on as they have started, then their rivals had better beware.
The team, formed from friends who used to enjoy a Saturday kickaround at Waterloo Park, entered the Evening News Copy IT Norwich Sunday League this season – and have made a flying start by soaring to the top of Division 4b. The Britannia Barracks-based outfit has won seven of their eight games.
And upbeat secretary Iffy Gray believes the only way is up. “The league is ours,” he predicted. “Our target is the Premier Division and I know we have got the guys to get there. We have got some real rough gems in our team – and they could even help Norwich City out one day – I am serious.”
The team was formed around a core of friends at Bertram Books and now has around 40 players to call on, with several of them students at UEA. Players hail from a wide range of African countries as well as Europe and the Caribbean.
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The nations represented include: Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, South Africa, Congo, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Dominican Republic, Kurdistan, Slovakia, Portugal and UK.
But whatever their mother tongue the players all speak the universal language of football, as well as English, which aids communication on the pitch.
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Team manager Junior Silva, who hails from Guinea in West Africa, said: “The team name comes from our love of football. People used to think it had something to do with a Bob Marley song but it’s purely down to football.”
Despite the history of rivalry between many of the countries – One Love United has proved a happy ship so far, with politics kept off the pitch.
“We embrace multiculturalism in the team. There is no animosity between the players on any level.
“It’s like one united family. The atmosphere is fantastic – it’s electric,” said Junior, who was on Sporting Lisbon’s books as a youngster and was a striker for Portuguese League teams including Leiria, Naval and Coimbra.
Iffy, Junior and Rickey Uchea were instrumental in taking the team into the league. They have welcomed former UEA languages lecturer Gordon Turner as club chairman.
“He is a pillar of the foundations that we have settled. He would have known many of the guys through one way or another,” said Iffy.
“Several of us knew him through his work at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.”
Iffy, who comes from Nigeria, continued: “We are grateful to the Sunday League organisers for the way they have embraced our ideas.
“They try to encourage football development and that’s commendable.”