Football was a powerful healing force for families affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy, players said at a memorial tournament.
Queens Park Rangers are hosting the Grenfell Memorial Cup at their Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, to commemorate the 72 victims of the fire.
Celebrities including rapper AJ Tracey, Bafta-winning TV personality and rapper Big Zulu and comedian Mo Gilligan are among the players, organizers said.
Co-organiser Karim Mussilhy, whose uncle Hesham Rahman died in the fire, told the PA news agency that events like the tournament help grieving families to continue “fighting for justice” – although they feel that for them in almost five years nothing has changed.
Mr Mussilhy, who is part of campaign group Grenfell United, said families still have no closure because no one has been held accountable for the tragedy.
He told PA: “Football has always been a big part of our community.
“For me personally, I grew up playing football in the area; I still play soccer in the area.
“Football is such a huge part of who we are and our lives and to be able to bring it together over something so awful (and) to be able to celebrate lives rather than mourn them all the time is just incredible.
“When you come here and you’re on the pitch with your teammates, for those 90 minutes, nothing else matters – just the bond and the unity that you have on the pitch with your teammates and it’s just such a magical feeling. ”
Mr Mussilhy, a lifelong QPR fan, said playing in the Championship stadium is a “dream come true”.
Speaking of his uncle, he said: “I fell in love with football because of him, so to be here today and celebrate it is very special.
“The last five years have been awful and we have had no changes, no arrests and no accountability.
“We are still in the election campaign. We’re still fighting for justice. We will do everything we can to ensure that something positive comes of the death of our families.
“But unfortunately it feels like we’re not where we want to be yet.
“That’s why it’s days like this that help us keep going; Having the community and everyone behind you gives you the motivation to keep fighting for justice.”
Tournament co-organiser and a Grenfell Tower resident who survived the fire, Paul Menacer, 28, said football helped him recover from the trauma.
He told PA: “(The Memorial Cup) is very, very important to me on a personal level because QPR has been very supportive of the community over the last four and a half years.
“My mental health is pretty bad, so I find that being able to forget about these issues for a few hours is a really big stress reliever for me.
“Nothing has changed, we still want justice for the 72 who have died, there are questions that need to be answered and I hope the inquest will hold people accountable.”
A five-game series began at 10:00 with friendly encounters between players from the Grenfell Athletic FC women’s team against staff from psychiatric groups and a youth tournament.
Grenfell Athletic FC, which was formed after the fire to support bereaved families, plays against local teams throughout the afternoon.
The final at 5.25pm will be a 72 minute match between a team of bereaved and survivors against ‘Blue Lights’ – key members of the emergency services including London Fire Brigade.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/grenfell-tower-celebrities-mo-gilligan-aj-tracey-qpr-b2084292.html Celebrities take part in a football tournament to commemorate the victims of Grenfell Tower