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From Mossend to Malawi: Bellshill club tackle poverty and prejudice

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• Bellshill club Mossend FC raise funds to build wells and supply football kits to people and Pakistan and Malawi. 
• They are also holding sessions in conjunction with Show Racism the Red Card. 
• Interview: Club Development Officer and Publicity Secretary Russell Sanderson
Bellshill, birthplace of legendary Manchester United manager Matt Busby and ex-Celtic captain and Lisbon Lion Billy McNeill, was once renowned as the home of some of the greats of Scottish football. But now, Mossend FC is putting the North Lanarkshire town back on the map with its pioneering, pro-active stance against discrimination and disadvantage.
In recent years, the club has worked relentlessly to eradicate prejudice and intolerance by bringing together local young people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Since working with a local mosque to encourage young players with a Muslim background to get involved with the club, Mossend’s charitable and community outreach programme has snowballed, taking their fight against injustice as far afield as Pakistan and Malawi. 
Club Development Officer and Publicity Secretary Russell Sanderson takes up the story. “We heard there were a lot of local children who were going to school, going to the local mosque and then going to football training, but training by themselves. What we wanted to do was to get them involved with us as the local football club.”
And so, they began holding training sessions aimed at local ethnic minority children which now hosts over 80 kids. The club now has plans to reach out to the local Polish community too.  
Mossend’s close association with Show Racism the Red Card (SRTRC) began when an ugly racist incident occurred at one of their games. Sanderson felt the club had to confront the issue. 
“It didn’t sit right with me, although the incident was dealt with at the time. Academy Director Paul McDonald and I approached SRTRC and arranged to hold an anti-discrimination workshop with our kids. The impact was immediate,” he said.
“Discrimination is completely unacceptable in society, never mind football. It is about educating young people, exposing stereotypes and prejudice.
“Our involvement is long term and we’re fully committed to the project of getting as many local people involved with the club no matter what race, religion or background.”
As the club’s horizons expanded, officials decided to partner with the Well Foundation, a Bellshill-based charity which builds wells and installs hand pumps to provide safe water to the world’s poorest and most isolated people. Players and parents raised funds to build two wells – to be named after the club – in deprived communities in Sindh province, Pakistan, where 50 degree heat and lethal droughts are common.  
“Mossend FC know that there are countries in the world that are living in abject poverty with no access to fresh, clean water. When we spoke to the Well Foundation we wanted to try and do what we could to help.
“It was brilliant to see the reaction and how much the kids bought into this.”
In addition, the club has also donated kit and equipment to impoverished children in Pakistan and Malawi. 
“I have passed some kits to Fahim Baqir [Chair of the Well Foundation] to get to Pakistan. Fahim is also travelling to Malawi to help reconstruct a school and he will take some more kits with him for the kids there. We see this as an incredible opportunity to use football to bring some happiness to kids in these countries.”

David Kelly | YFS South East Region Journalist
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