A sports programme dedicated to free weekly soccer classes for young women called Hijabs and Hat-tricks has won one of the top grants from the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund. Coca-Cola Ireland spoke to Sports Against Racism Ireland’s Rob Taylor about what winning means to the charity.

Can you explain how your charity helps young people?

Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI) was set up 20 years ago in response to what was then a new problem in Dublin and Ireland. After some nasty racist attacks in the Dublin area a few people got together to have a football tournament to express their disgust at racism and their support for all the different people who were living here.

We now have one of the largest inter-cultural seven-a-side soccer tournaments in Europe each year in opposition to racism. It's called 'Soccerfest' and is played at Phoenix Park in September.

SARI also organises 'Soccernites' where young people from all different communities can come and train for free and there is a team and we play matches. We have also a new project which is great for the organisation – it's called 'Hijabs and Hat-tricks'. It was set up in response to UEFA changing the ruling to allow women from the Muslim community to wear a hijab while playing.

A lot of young Muslim women living in Dublin wanting to play and we set up a women's equivalent of Soccernites. Through Soccernites and Hijabs and Hat Tricks we run a young leaders’ training programme where we put young people through different courses to develop them as youth leaders in their communities.

How will this award help you further your work?

This money will help Hijabs and Hat-tricks to expand and to reach out to more people – to make the whole thing a bigger project. At the moment there are about 20 to 30 young women in the project, we want to see if we can get that up to maybe 100. That would be great. As well as people from new communities in Ireland it would be great if we could get a lot of women from the local white indigenous Irish community. That's where the integration really happens, when everyone learns and has fun together.

Is there anyone who sticks out in your mind as someone SARI has helped or who’ll directly benefit from your Coca-Cola Thank You Fund grant?

There is a man called Patrice Ngu. Patrice is actually an ordained Christian minister. When we spoke to Patrice a few years ago he talked about how SARI was a bridge for him into the Irish community – it opened doors through football, he met people and built connections and friends.

Now thankfully Patrice has official status to remain in Ireland. He is a pastor in the local community and he still now comes back to SARI and brings teams and reaches out and brings other people to us. He himself always says how important SARI was to him.

What difference will this award make to your charity?

Sari really has struggled on hand-to-mouth funding and what the funding from Coca-Cola allows us to do is to plan for the future.

In practical terms we can now book the hall once a week for six months, we can now buy footballs and equipment and transport the team to matches. Those are real practical things, and without the funding from Coca-Cola we wouldn't be able to do that.

How does it feel to have won?

We’re absolutely delighted to receive the money. It is really helpful to have the backing and support of a company like Coca-Cola. It means a lot to us.

How can people get involved or help out with your charity?

If there are any young people out there who are interested in coming and meeting people from all of the different communities living in Dublin, we have Soccernites running on Friday nights, and Hijabs and Hat-tricks running on Monday nights. We would be delighted if people wanted to contact us. All the information is on our website: www.sari.ie

See the full list of 2016 Coca-Cola Thank You Fund winners

Judge Deirdre Finlay explains why SARI stood out…

“This organisation is already doing some great work,” says Deirdre. “This is a key issue all around Ireland, all around Europe of course, and it's increasingly in need of being addressed.

“The way they are doing it through sport is a no-brainer – it's just such a smart project, with very passionate people involved. It's making a lot of impact for young people who are new to Ireland or not as well assimilated as others, but equally making an impact with young people who need to be a bit more aware of issues of integration.”

Find out more about the 2016 winners’ ceremony

Applications for the Thank You Fund 2018 are now open. Find out more about the Thank You Fund 2018.