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The Documentary That Shows How Football Can Unite the World

17/01/2017 11:17 GMT | Updated 17/01/2017 11:17 GMT

We're all used to seeing desperate footage of refugees trapped in camps, freezing, starving. Or drowning in the Mediterranean as they try to escape the horrors they've faced in places like Syria.

More than 5,000 lost their lives in the sea trying to reach Europe last year (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/23/record-migrant-death-toll-two-boats-capsize-italy-un-refugee) - and for the estimated 360,000 who survive the journey and escape to relative safety in Europe, for many, life is hardly less bleak than in the war-torn countries they've fled.

Many find themselves stranded in squalid camps as the political mood hardens around immigration and they find their plight ignored as other news stories hit the front pages as the world gets ever crazier.

Our government has hardly bothered to do a thing, but whatever your political bent, these people are human beings just like us at the end of the day and they've gone through more than we can imagine. Yet still the Jungle Camp in Calais was razed by French officials last year.

For ages, I felt useless and wondered what I could do to help, rather than just donate to charity. What did I have to offer? Luckily for me, when I started a role as Head of Copa90, this moment arrived. This is a football brand, one which believes that football is the most universal language there is and with an audience of millions.

Football unites people, cities, countries. The beautiful game can help you forget about your woes during those 90 minutes on the pitch, but vitally too, it gives you an identity; Football helps you feel part of a community that goes beyond your own situation or location. Football can and does unite the world.

So I was lucky, because an idea was pitched to me: "We want to hold a football tournament for the refugees. We could get charities involved, broadcast it online and get lots of people from the UK and France onboard."

It started out being called The Jungle Cup, but re-named The Liberté Cup after the destruction of the event's original 'jungle' home. Staged at Grand-Synthe, now the only 'official' temporary camp in France, Copa90 teamed with charities Fuze Beyond Borders and The Worldwide Tribe among others to put the whole shebang together.

We all wanted The Liberté Cup to spread a lasting message - that while the game won't necessarily solve problems, it can be a unifying force and that football, with its estimated global participation running into hundreds of millions, 'has no borders'.

We all thought it was important to give an insight into how and why these refugees have fled war-torn countries including Syria, Iraq and Iran - and how, even temporarily, they could find an escape from their plight while on the pitch as well as form human bonds with people from the countries in which they've found themselves.

Then amazingly, ITV came onboard to partner with us to make the documentary of the tournament, and to help our aim to challenge the way refugees are sometimes portrayed in parts of the media by representing people living in the camp as individuals and focusing on their own stories, skills and passions.

The often heart-rending but ultimately inspiring film follows the fortunes of those who took part in the one-off competition, as well as the British volunteers who travelled across the Channel to make it happen. The contest - which earned support on social from the likes of Lionel Messi - took place on 10th September 2016 at Grande-Synthe's Stade Jean Deconninck and featured eight teams from the camp as well as volunteers from United Glasgow Football Club and Hackney Wick FC.

The documentary, which premiered this week (10th Jan) on the ITV Hub to be watched at any time, is a moving testament to everyone involved - especially the refugees.

I'm proud of what we achieved and hope the message of the Liberté Cup continues to resonate around the world to show how football can truly unite the human race as a great force for good.

Click here (http://www.itv.com/hub/the-liberte-cup/2a4917a0001) to watch The Liberté Cup on the ITV Hub now.