June 1st 2022

One of the best things about 6 a side football in general and our leagues in particular is their ability to cross borders and break down barriers.

The current crisis in Ukraine has shocked the world. Russian aggression has left thousands dead and millions more displaced since the conflict began on 24th February, but one young refugee has found welcoming arms at his local 6 a side league.

The youngster, 17-year-old Marco (pictured above third from left, holding the flag) was one of the around 60,000 who have arrived in the UK as part of the measures announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel at the start of the conflict.

He was placed with a family in Gosport, Hampshire, and that’s where Zack Ware and The Breadrins Curse team come in, as Zack explains: “Marko was placed with a family friend of mine,” he told us, “and we went out with him for a walk to show him the surroundings. When we got talking it turned out that – like us all – he loved football, so we said to him ‘why don’t you come down and play in our team?’”

Striker Marco did just that – and he’s joined the ranks of the lads at Bay House School where he’s fitted in perfectly. “He’s the same age as us, so it was easy,” said Zack, “it was great for him to be able to make friends through the league. There’s a fantastic atmosphere down there, all the teams know each other, and everyone has made Marco feel welcome.”

Rob Hobbs, Area Manager for the Gosport league, couldn’t hide his delight that the Ukrainian youngster had found some respite from the conflict in the league, saying: “For many people, Leisure Leagues football offers an escape from the stresses we all face in life. As a young man who’s world has been flipped upside down, Marco finds himself here in the UK and knowing that our league is offering him just a small escape from what must be an incredibly difficult time is fantastic. We are proud to have him here and delighted that he is enjoying his football here in Gosport”

Zack and the lads from The Breadrins Curse have been playing in the league at Bay House for a couple of years, and currently sit just outside the division one promotion spaces with a couple of games left. Zack though, is aiming big for next time around: “We are going for promotion,” he states. “We are ready and now we’ve got our new striker, I reckon next year could be our year!”

The skipper (pictured middle in the hoodie) was quick to stress that the Wednesday league was about more than that, though. “Oh, we love it,” he said. “The teams are great, everything goes so well and the referees make sure everything runs well, we look forward to our Wednesdays, and I know Marco has enjoyed it too.”

So the boys and their distinctive red kit will be around for a long time yet, but one question remains: Just why do they represent Eintracht Frankfurt, are they fans?  “Well we are now,“ laughs Zack. “Truth is we didn’t know what we were going to get. We hadn’t got a kit, so we ordered a mystery one off the internet. We think it looks smart so it’s definitely our kit now!”

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