Football tournament tribute to victims of Bradford City fire disaster

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Khadim Hussain, with the trophy and winning teams from Hamm and Lincoln City The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Khadim Hussain, with the trophy and winning teams from Hamm and Lincoln City

Up to 1,000 competitors and spectators made the 29th Valley Parade Memorial soccer tournament an Easter weekend to remember.

Germany visitors Hamm might have lifted the trophies but the real winners were football and the good name of Bradford.

The tournament began in 1986, a year after the Valley Parade fire disaster in which 56 football fans lost their lives. Eleven children were among those who died and hundreds of survivors suffered horrific burns.

The two-day memorial tournament, held at the Marley Activities and Coaching Centre in Keighley at the weekend, is a sporting tribute to those who died and aims to promote friendship between young people locally and internationally.

Ten teams took part in the event with Under-12s and Under-14s tournaments. Bradford City teams lost out in the semi-finals of both competitions and Hamm beat Lincoln City in both finals.

Before the finals were played both teams lined up in the centre of the pitch while national anthems were played and the players were presented to the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Khadim Hussain.

Fire disaster survivor and lifelong Bradford City fan Carl Dalton, who has organised the tournaments for the last 15 years, said it had been a wonderful two days. “We are very pleased with the number of people who turned up to support the event,” he said.

“Many positive feelings have come out of it again with relationships and friendships being built across the globe. Local young players have had the opportunity to play against academy opponents from Bradford City and Lincoln, which they would not normally have the chance to do, and the teams from Sandy Lane won the Fair Play Award.

“This is about friendship through football. The philosophy is about the taking part, not just the winning, playing the game in the right spirit and having respect for your opponents and the referees.”

Mr Dalton was 17 when he was involved in the fire disaster. “Like anybody else I went to a football match and a tragedy unfolded which will stay with me forever. It is an honour to be involved with this tournament. I am extremely proud that Bradford has been able to produce something like this.”

The Prison Officers’ Association has been involved in the tournament from the outset and was represented at the weekend by Terry Fullerton of its National Executive Committee. He said: “It’s fantastic that something like this can develop from such a tragedy. It’s nice to see the kids enjoying themselves and playing football the way it should be played.”

Presenting the trophies, the Lord Mayor, Coun Hussain said: “Football is a great ambassador for bringing communities together and developing international links.”

The teams taking part were Bradford City, Bingley, Sandy Lane, Bradford Park Avenue, Campion, Quensbury Celtic, BD3 United, Silsden plus two centre of excellence teams from Lincoln and the teams from Hamm, which is twinned with Bradford.

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