The 13th edition of the most-awaited annual sports event for ethnic communities in Christchurch—the Christchurch Global Football Festival—concluded on Sunday with Javidan, a team comprising expats from Afghanistan, going down to two-time defending champions Irish Rovers in a nail-biting penalty shoot-out. The teams were level at one goal each at the end of the regulation time. 

Started in 2003 as a forum to bring people from different nationalities living in Christchurch together, the festival this year was organised by the Christchurch City Council in collaboration with Christchurch Football Centre and New Zealand Police and was supported by Mainland football and Plains FM. In all, 320 players aged 16 and above participated in 16 teams.

Apart from Javidan, other teams from the Indian subcontinent included Nepal and Bhutan, showcasing the passion that part of the world has for the “beautiful game”. Another notable participation was from Canterbury Fiji, which took the fifth place trophy.   

Speaking after receiving the runners-up medal, Meysum Shafahi, captain of the Afghani team, praised his team for the effort they had put in to reach the finals. “We have performed very well, and I am proud of our achievement. This year, we stumbled at the last step. Maybe next year, we will win the trophy,” he said. 

Deepak Pandey, who hails from Butwal in Nepal and played in the Nepali Gorkhali Football Club's team, and Akash Drukpa, team manager and captain of the Bhutanese team known as Lhotshampa, praised the professional organisation of this year's edition.

Mr Drukpa also expressed hope of seeing an Indian football team participating in the tournament soon. “It would be good if we see an Indian football team in next year's edition,” he said. Notably, his team also won the festival’s fair play award, as it didn't have a single booking throughout the three-day tournament.

Vinay Prasad, a member of the Canterbury Fiji football team, which has won the tournament three times in the past, had the last words, “While we have four different clubs in Christchurch where people from Fiji play, all of us come under one banner of Canterbury Fiji to participate in this tournament. In the last 13 years, we have seen the Football Festival grow leaps and bounds. Apart from the cultural diversity this event showcases, we also get to learn different styles of play, which help us in improving our game.”