Sikhs across the country gathered together at the 9th annual Shaheedi Football Tournament in Slough this weekend (June 11-12).
The event, which took place at Singh Sabha Slough Sports Centre, was held to remember the battle of Amritsar of June 1984 and to remember Sikh resistance and activism from then, up to today.
On the first day we saw the boys section, kids section and ladies section in action, the 2nd day was instead dedicated to the men’s adult section.
Throughout the two days there were plenty of activities and entertainment available ranging from guest speakers, live performances by singers, to bouncy castles and face painting for children, food and drinks and much more.
We spoke to some of the guest speakers, organisers, activists and sevadars that helped making the event a success.
Deepa, from Sikh Youth UK and organiser of the event said:
“In 2014 documents were leaked regarding the British government colluding with India to attack Sri Harmandir Sahib in June 1984. This is why the football tournaments were started that year, to get together and remember our Shaheeds.
“The event has been going on for nine years and we had to split it in two days because there are so many of you. We had over 100 teams which engaged sangata from across the UK and over the last 2 days we had so many sevadars (helpers) who put their time, dedication and effort to make this event successful. We would like to thank Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Slough, Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall, Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara Slough, Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Watford and GAD Gym Derby.
“These are the main Gurdawars that backed us along with other orgs like NSYF, 1984tribute, Sikh Welfare, Sikh 2 Inspire, Sikh Federation UK but the biggest thank you goes to Maharaj Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. Next year will be the 10th anniversary and it will be even bigger.”
Maniv Singh from Sikh Human Rights said: “I’m looking around and I’m seeing pictures of Sikh resistance all around me so it’s fair that we address the topic of Sikh activism from then till today. Like Sikhs were persecuted, hunted down, killed back then, today Sikhs are also persecuted, even if it’s happening in a different way. The organisers of this tournament have done something great. They want us to forget the shaheeds, they want us to mobilise in a way that we also integrate part of the Indian machinery but the Singhs here are helping make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Shamsher Singh, from NSYF, spoke to us about the importance of having events like the shaheedi football tournament. He said: “For me this is very important because we’ve had a whole generation of youth from Punjab that left everything behind in order to fight for our freedom, events like this are very important because we are coming together in their name, in honour of them.
“So much of our life in this country is dominated by the mainstream, the way some people from here think and live so having spaces like this is vital. This is what they try to steal from us, by committing genocide, they wanted to kill this way of thinking that we are azaad (free) people and we should be fighting for our sovereignty.”
Harwinder Singh from Sikh Education Council added: “We are here at the football tournament to help do some Katha, education and parchaar on the concept of shaheedi.
“It’s important to have events like this to help relate to young people of today, born and raised in the West why the events of 1984 are important to them, because they live so far away from it. Connecting them to those events and letting them know why we are here is our task.”
Benny Dhaliwal sang his song Mahaan Jarnail on day one of the tournament and talking to Unsaid he revealed what the song means to him. He said: “My drive behind the song is the word Mahaan itself, it’s greatness. Sant ji (Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale) for us, during our childhood he was a superhero, then growing up we learnt more of what went on in 1984, about our shaheeds and that pushed me to work on this song. It was a privilege for me to do this song and hopefully in the future it’s something we will be working on more.”
Singh Mahoon who performed on day 2 and sang songs from his latest album added: “Beautiful day, lovely atmosphere to be around, you don’t often get this in London, you don’t often get this in this area so it’s a beautiful thing to see. Meeting loads of people who are connected with the Khalistan sangarsh, that feel the pain and want to do something about it has been great.”
Harmeet Singh Gill, General Secretary of Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall, also spoke to us. He said: “It’s an amazing day and it’s great to see so many youngsters come out. We’re at a sporting event but it’s actually a chance to also learn and remember about the sacrifices of all shaheeds of the Sikh Kaum.”
Sevadaar Harj Kaur has been helping out at the Shaheedi football tournaments since last year.
She said: “Shotout to SYUK for organising this, wonderful tournament for 1984. I’ve been helping out since last year. It’s a privilege to be able to come together in such a good way and remember and raise awareness on the Sikh genocide.It’s lovely to meet all the other sevadaars and get involved with like-minded people. Everyone’s done really well and I’m looking forward to next year.”
The event was a great success and you’ll be able to find out more and get a deeper insight into the two days in our new podcast: The Kaur’s Convo. This is a new partnership between Sim Kaur from Anti Grooming Task Force (AGTF) and, me, Amneet Kaur from Unsaid Digital, so keep an eye out on our social media channels to find out when the first episode is going to be released.