Everyone’s a winner as Wrexham football match breaks down barriers
The score was 4-3 but everyone involved in a football match in Wrexham agreed that it was a win-win result.
The final whistle of the game at Wrexham AFC’s Colliers Park complex marked a milestone in community relations as the match was between teams of local police officers and Bellevue FC.
Bellevue FC is a community-based side established with a goal to provide league football opportunities to those from perceived adverse backgrounds or those from backgrounds of social poverty.
And not only did the fixture succeed in its aim of helping to break down barriers between the police and the public but it also provided a boost to Wrexham’s City of Culture bid for 2025.
The match on the complex’s 3G pitch was the initiative of Sergeant Dave Smith who established the Wrexham Police Station team, but he was unable to see his preparations reach fruition because was suffering from Covid-19.
It was he, in his role as a Neighbourhood Policing Officer, who floated the idea to Delwyn Derrick, the driving force behind the Bellevue club, which was formed five years ago.
The club has become a focal point for scores of vulnerable men and women, several of whom have used it to help turn their lives around.
Among those who took part was the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin who came on as a second half substitute for the Blues.
The football-mad commissioner said he was delighted to take part in such an important event in promoting community relations.
He is a big fan of the ethos of Bellevue FC which he describes as one of the “most diverse clubs on the planet”.
The commissioner said: “What they have achieved here is nothing short of amazing. It’s life-enhancing and life-changing melting pot of nations and backgrounds, encompassing the whole spectrum of the rainbow.
“The way they bring people together from all parts of the community – no matter what their background – is utterly inspiring.
“It also tells you about the power of football as an international language and a force for good in the world.
“It was therefore really appropriate that the debut match of the new police team was against Bellevue FC because they are an example to us all.
“It’s clear that football helps to break down barriers and I would love to see more police teams doing the same in other parts of North Wales,” he added.
Delwyn Derrick, who has won awards for his community work, said the prospect of playing the police, who were making their 11-a-side debut, had attracted huge interest.
“We had about 30 wanting to play but settled on 22, fielding virtually a different team in each half,” he said.
“It’s a great shame that Dave Smith couldn’t be here because he did so much to get it off the ground,” he said. “Playing against officers and PCSOs helps people to look at them in a different light – as someone they shared a pitch with rather than just someone in a uniform.
“A large part of police work is crime prevention and this kind of initiative can play a huge part in that.”
In his pre-match team talk, Delwyn told his players not to shirk tackles but to show their talent while respecting their opponents – and the result was an entertaining end-to-end game, with victory going to the boys – and girls – in blue (shirts and uniforms).
In Dave Smith’s absence his colleague PC Simon Hughes filled the role of team manager, and he agreed that the event had proved a massive success.
“It helps to break down stereotypes and the lads are doing this in their own time, some having taken holidays so that they can play,” he said.
Saturday’s game was behind closed doors but the public had a chance to watch it live as it was streamed as part of Wrexham’s City of Culture bid for 2025, which is gathering momentum.
Among the privileged few able to attend were the Mayor of Wrexham, Cllr Ronnie Prince, and the leader of the council, Cllr Mark Pritchard.
“It’s a fantastic way of bringing the community together, especially as there’s a real buzz about everything to do with football in Wrexham at the moment since the takeover the town club,” said Cllr Prince.
Another proud VIP spectator was the President of the Welsh FA, Steve Williams, who hails from Cefn Mawr.
“This kind of game is a great way of bringing the community together and raising awareness of people’s roles and responsibilities. As a local lad I’m proud of what is being done here and the fact that these great facilities here at Colliers Park are being used by the community. It’s great for this area,” he said.
Players from both squads put everything they could into the game and there was a common feeling that it should not be the last such fixture.
Two of Bellevue’s team had particular reason to enjoy the occasion because the club has given them an opportunity to play the game they love as well as camaraderie.
Sian Jones,38, who had been undaunted in tackling some of her burly opponents, was delighted with the way things had gone.
“I used to play football as a teenager but there were no ladies’ teams,” she said. “ When I saw an advert for Belle Vue last year I thought I’d give it a go again and now I train twice a week as well as doing a bit of coaching. I’m really enjoying it.”
Olivia Kassab is another who struggled to find a ladies’ team after turning 16.
“I used to play for Brickfield Rangers and my old manager suggested I come to Bellevue. It’s working out well,” she said.
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