Players at a memorial tournament said football was a powerful healing force for families who lost the bereaved of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Queens Park Rangers are hosting the Grenfell Memorial Cup at the Keanese Prince Foundation Stadium in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, to remember the 72 victims of the fire.
Celebrities including rapper AJ Tracey, Bafta Award-winning television personality, rapper Big Zuu and comedian Mo Gilligan were among the participants, organizers said.
Co-organizer Karim Moslehi, whose uncle Hisham Rahman died in the fire, told the Palestinian News Agency that events like the tournament help grieving families continue to “fight for justice” – despite feeling that nothing has changed for them in nearly five years. .
Moslehi, which is part of the Grenfell United group, said the families are still not closed because no one has been held responsible for the tragedy.
He told PA: “Football has always been a huge part of our society.
“For me personally, I grew up playing area football; I still play area football.
“Football is a huge part of where we live and our lives, and it’s amazing to be able to bring them together in something horrible (and) to be able to celebrate lives instead of mourning them all the time.
“When you come here on the field with your teammates, during those 90 minutes, everything else doesn’t matter – just the bonding and unity that you have with your teammates and that’s a magical feeling.”
Mr Moslehi, a Queens Park Rangers fan, said playing in the tournament team’s stadium was a “dream come true”.
Speaking of his uncle, he said: “I fell in love with football because of him so being here today and celebrating him, it’s very special.
The past five years have been horrific, with no changes, no arrests, no accountability.
“We’re still campaigning. We’re still fighting for justice. We’ll do everything we can to make sure that some positivity comes from the deaths of our families.”
“But unfortunately it seems we are nowhere near where we want to be.
“So it is days like these that help us keep going; having the community and everyone behind you gives you the motivation to keep fighting for justice.”
Paul Minasser, 28, the tournament organizer and a Grenfell Tower resident who survived the fire, said football helped him recover from the trauma.
He told PA: “(The Anniversary Cup) is very, very important to me on a personal level because QPR has been very supportive in the community for the past four and a half years.
“My mental health is really poor, so just to forget about those problems for a few hours, I find it’s a great stress reliever for me.
“Nothing has changed, we still want justice for the 72 people who died, there are questions that need to be answered and I hope people will be held accountable through the investigation.”
Meanwhile, Big Zuu described his participation in the tournament as “more important” to him than winning two Baftas titles earlier this month.
Speaking with PA before his game, Big Zuu, who lives locally, said he knows the residents of Grenfell Tower and wanted to show that people haven’t forgotten them.
When asked how it feels to celebrate the community event after winning the two-week Baftas, he said, “Today is more important.
“The Baftas – It’s great to have a medal like this.
“But caring for your local community is more important.”
He added, “Seeing the community come out, and having QPR give us the place is very important to show that love is still there, and we haven’t forgotten it.
“Greenville is still in our hearts.”
A five-game series began at 10 a.m., with female players from the Grenfell Athletic FC women’s team friendly against workers from the mental health groups, and a youth tournament.
Formed after the fire to support bereaved families, Grenfell Athletic FC plays local teams throughout the afternoon.
The final at 5.25pm will be a 72-minute match between a team of bereaved and survivors against the Blue Lights – key workers from emergency services including the London Fire Brigade.