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Pitch-side poetry

5 November 2012

A Sheffield United match turned out to be poetry in motion for two young football fans thanks to a competition run as part of a joint anti-racism campaign and literary festival.

The Blades launched the poetry competition for school children to coincide with the Kick It Out campaign and Off the Shelf's 'Text in the City' initiative.

Before the home game against Portsmouth, pupils Jackie Sibanda, of Arbourthorne Primary School, and Westfield Sports College's Rhodri Wyse met Blades striker and Kick it Out Ambassador John Cofie pitch side, who presented them with framed copies of their poem, which he had also signed.

Off the Shelf commissioned Jackie Kay to write a poem about football, and the award-winning writer read out her anti-racism poem on the pitch, just before the players came out for kick-off.

Jackie, whose poem was inspired by Arthur Wharton - widely considered to have been the first black professional association football player - said the event was "an unforgettable experience", adding: "To get a chance to read a poem on a football pitch to that size of stadium was totally different for me - but it is good to get poets out of their comfort zones.

"Sheffield United are trailblazers and serious in their endeavours to find new ways to fight for a better society."

United's Head of Community Sue Beeley said: "During October, Kick It Out runs the One Game, One Community campaign to promote inclusion and equality in football and we chose the Portsmouth match to highlight our commitment.

"The players warmed up in Kick It Out t-shirts, club staff wore Kick It Out badges and stickers and Football United Racism Divides [FURD] campaigners distributed material around the stadium."

The game also saw a Guard of Honour by youngsters from the Heeley Boys team and a parade of Kick It Out flags by two groups of local young people involved in social inclusion football projects - Sheffield United's Kickz and Nubian Girls.

Sheffield United's Dance Daze troop performed a special half-time routine, while the half-time Guard of Honour was led by pupils from Lowfield School, which has close links with the club's community division, the United Initiative.

Click here to visit the Off the Shelf website or click here to watch a video about Off the Shelf.

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