Cup goes cultural

PABLO FERNANDEZ -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:33 PM ET

The Calgary Police Service is cashing in on FIFA World Cup fever, using soccer as a universal language with which to fight intolerance in the city.

The two-day Diversity Cup soccer tournament which kicked off yesterday in Forest Lawn has teams taking to the pitch from different ethnic, cultural and religious groups from Calgary, Strathmore and Edmonton.

Scoring big with many players, the aim of the CPS-hosted event is to expose youths to different cultures, said Const. Kelly Mergen.

"The purpose is to bring youth from various backgrounds together to interact and learn about different cultures in a competitive environment," he said.

"It's basically a fun tournament that we hope will educate people and decrease tension and increase understanding.

"I think it's more of a long-term solution because it's these kinds of events that will empower young people from different cultures and make them more tolerant."

The tournament, which drew nearly 140 players from seven teams, had an international flavour and proved competitive, said Harith Al-Shiraida, of Edmonton's Al-Ikhwan football club.

"It's pretty good because you get to play a variety of teams you wouldn't get to play otherwise," he said.

"... there's players here from Pakistan, Sudan, Iraq, South America ... it's like a mini World Cup."

Al-Ikhwan coach Abdul Al-Ami said apart from friendly competition the tournament serves an even higher purpose.

"This is good because it helps to promote diversity, which is one of the best parts of Canadian society," he said.

"The problem is when people don't know another's culture or religion, and that's when ignorance starts and leads to hatred."

The finals will be held at 3 p.m. today at the Forest Lawn Athletic Park, 4808 14 Ave. S.E.


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