Across the great divide

April 12, 2017

Mayo's Shairoze Akram, Matthew Ruane and Michael Plunkett celebrate.
©INPHO/Andrew Paton.

Mayo under-21 All-Ireland winner Shairoze Akram lined out in a novel game in his hometown recently.

Akram, who was part of this year's Mayo under-21 squad, lined out alongside his father for a Pakistan selection against their new Syrian neighbours in a soccer match played in Ballaghaderreen.

The Syrian refugees have been living in the Co Mayo town since early March and the local Ballaghaderreen barber Sajjad Hussain organised the game to help the Syrians interact with the local community.

Akram told the Western People that he was delighted to get involved in the game and believes that sport can play a part in helping them settle in.

"I think there was something in one of the papers about how there was nothing for the Syrian people to be doing in Ballaghaderreen, that they were prisoners, so Saj organised the whole thing," said the first Pakistani born GAA player to win an All-Ireland medal.

"He organised a friendly game, a bit of fun, so that they could get to know the people and community of Ballaghaderreen, for example the Pakistanis.

"I was just showing them that there is lots to do, there are loads of clubs and lots of stuff for them to go at.

"I think sport is massive, it lets people get involved with people they may not have gotten to know otherwise. If they were just going on a night out, they're not getting to know those people but if they join a club, it's way easier for them to get to know the people of Ballaghaderreen and to essentially become part of the town."

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