A home-grown soccer star returned to South Tyneside as he joined with police officers to play in a match celebrating community cohesion.
A team of PCs and PCSOs working across Area Southern Command pulled on their boots and put their footballing talents to the test against an XI from the local Bangladeshi and Muslim communities.
The match, at South Shields FC’s Mariners Park, was organised to celebrate the flourishing relationship between police and the community – all in the name of charity.
Former Sunderland striker Martyn Waghorn, who was born in South Shields, also took part as an adopted member of the police XI after throwing his support behind the initiative.
The 28-year-old, who now plays for Championship club Ipswich Town and has also plyed his trade at Scottish giants Rangers, put in a standout display back at his hometown club after a 16-goal haul in England’s second-tier this season.
The police XI ran out 6-2 winners after a hard-fought game.
Martin said: “I am delighted to have taken part in such a positive event. As soon as I was asked whether I’d be available, it was a no-brainer.
“These events bring the community together – and now the season has finished, I felt it was a great opportunity to give something back to the area.
“I’m pleased that the whole community got behind it, while at the same time raising money for a brilliant cause.”
The game was organised in aid of South Tyneside Ability Football Club and the local Food Bank.
PC Chris Howey explained how the event came about.
“Earlier this year, a few colleagues and I were invited to a Mate/Hate crime conference at Sunderland University,” PC Howey said.
“It was at this conference when we met the amazing people from South Tyneside Ability Football Club.
“It is an incredible charity which offers football coaching for men, women and children with disabilities, so when the idea of a charity football match arose, it seemed obvious to try and raise money for them.
“We saw this event as a fantastic opportunity to play against members of the Bangladeshi and Muslim communities in South Shields, who we have a strong relationship with.
“There has been a great response from all involved and I’m sure other events like this will be organised in the future.”
The event was supported by South Tyneside Council’s community safety team, who donated £200 to cover the cost of the pitch hire and a trophy for the victors.
Coun Moira Smith, lead member for area management and community safety at South Tyneside Council, said: “Events like this help to promote the positive relationships we have within the community.
“It is also wonderful to see that the match is benefitting South Tyneside Ability Football Club and the local Food Bank, which are such great local causes.”
Zeera Restaurant also volunteered to provide the after-match food for the staff and players taking part, while cheerleading group Silver Shadows provided the half-time entertainment.