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Teenagers from across Lanarkshire have teamed up with the police and anti-sectarian campaigners for a football competition with a difference.

Talented footballers from ten Lanarkshire schools will today compete for the ‘Kiss Bigotry Goodbye’ cup at Ravenscraig Sports Centre in an event organised by Police Scotland and supported by North Lanarkshire Leisure and the charity Nil by Mouth. 

The competition will provide an opportunity for some of Lanarkshire’s most promising young footballers to showcase their skills and work with North Lanarkshire Leisure’s team of experienced coaches. In addition to showcasing their skills on the ball, pupils will participate in educational workshops which will raise awareness of sectarianism, warn of the dangers of posting online abuse and deepen understanding of different religious cultures and traditions. Organisers Police Scotland hope the event will highlight the importance of its grassroots education work in building bridges between communities in tackling hate crime in society.

The Kiss Bigotry Goodbye' campaign was launched by Nil by Mouth in 2015 and since then thousands of people have taken part in events including quiz nights, school sports activities, penalty kick competitions and online campaigns encouraging fans to celebrate the positive side of Scottish football. The charity was set up by Glasgow teenager Cara Henderson in response to the brutal sectarian murder of her school friend Mark Scott as he made his way home from a football match in Glasgow in 1995.

Nil by Mouth Campaign Director, Dave Scott, said:

"This event is hugely significant as it shows football as a positive vehicle for change and proves the game can bring people together rather than being used as a dividing line. Education is key to challenging prejudice and it’s very welcome to see Police Scotland investing time and effort in grassroots programmes like this which provide a safe and positive environment for pupils to work and play together.  After a few weeks where we have seen such terrible events across the UK the message we want pupils to take from today is that difference is something to be celebrated, not feared.  We hope that the ‘Kiss Bigotry Goodbye’ cup will remind people that there is much more that unites, rather than divides, us. ‘

Lanarkshire Division Local Policing Commander, Chief Superintendent Roddy Irvine. Said:

“This is a great event and I hope everyone has a lot of fun. At Police Scotland we are committed to keeping our communities safe and a key part of that is education. We want to see young people supporting their teams with enthusiasm but without malice. This event will give our young people a chance to understand and celebrate the diversity of the communities they live in. It will also give them an insight into the impact and consequences of acts of sectarianism, whether online or in person. Football should bring people together and I hope that today helps make that happen.”

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