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Wednesday, 16 August 2017 15:45

Admirable

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TUESDAY 15th AUGUST Bellevue Park, a warm and sunny evening
BELLEVUE 0 BRADLEY PARK 5 (North East Wales League)

Armed with a rail rover ticket for the week, I can't resist another long distance midweek trip. Wrexham has always been the general destination tonight, and tonight's home team have caught my interest enough to persuade me to watch them instead of Brickfield, playing on their temporary ground at New Broughton. The added bonus is the ease of getting to Bellevue Park, a little over five minutes walk from Wrexham General station. As I leave the station around 5pm, there are a few early arrivals for the Wrexham v Gateshead game at the Racecourse, no doubt heading off for a pre-match drink or two.

An hour later, over in Bellevue Park, the scene is a summer evening idyll, residents enjoying their attractive green space in the centre of town. Over in the eastern corner of the park, the teams are already warming up on the single roped off football pitch. It's a nice setting with a huge grass bank on one side, and large trees all around, with distant views of town landmarks.

What attracted me to this game most was the story behind the home club, who are newly founded this year. Aside from being a football club, affiliated to the North East Wales League and the NEWFA, you could call them a 'project'; or an 'initiative; they also refer to themselves as a family. They've grown out of informal kickabouts on this park between locals and the town's large migrant population - workers, students and refugees from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Club founder Delwyn Derrick explains that the foreign contingents, often knowing no-one locally, were drawn to the park and the common, global love of football. The gatherings here had a valuable social purpose going beyond pure recreation. Galvanised by suggestions that the park's pitch might be taken out of use by the council, they formed a club to lay claim to it. CPD Bellevue is the result. Delwyn and club chairman Sarah Roberts tell me that there are dozens of players signed up, from a long list of countries as well as a fair number of locals. Some newcomers have shared with their new UK friends harrowing stories of their experiences before arriving here. It's gratifying to see them enjoying the peace and safety of a warm summer evening.

I press Delwyn and Sarah on the question of fund-raising: Surely such a worthy scheme gets grants? Applications submitted, but you can't short-cut the process. Charities? Yes, local ones like the Warehouse project and BME Sports Cymru have helped. Business sponsors? Yes, but the list surprises me - it's small local businesses - a coffee shop, a tattoo parlour, a wellbeing clinic, a Welsh bar. Not one big corporate local or national name has so far seen the value of this organic, self-help approach to social integration to commit their CSR budgets to backing it. Anyway, they're making ends meet - just. The players' £2 subs will just about cover the referee's fee.

And so to the match. After a couple of heavy defeats, it's clear already that Bellevue will have to derive their pleasure this season from the recreational, social side of their club rather than winning trophies. I'd wondered beforehand if I was going to find that results were of little importance to these players, given the wider picture. But as they go 0-2 down to Bradley Park in the opening quarter of an hour, it's clear they do care and aren't just content to be playing. It's 0-3 at half time, but Bellevue have a couple of shots on the break. A few more in the second half, but it ends 0-5.

I hope the motivation, optimism and momentum that led to the creation of this unusual, admirable club can withstand more disappointments like this and give it time to develop and mature; because it's worth it.

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