By Tirion Davies | Editor-in-Chief
Tiger Bay FC is not a football club too many of us would be familiar with.
Nestled in a small area of greenery in Butetown, shadowed by Welsh skyscrapers, Canal Park is easy to miss.
Where there were once huge stands and thousands standing in an adoring crowd, the pitch is now surrounded by an idustrial estate and rows of flats. Built upon the industrial waterway system between Cardiff city and its docks, the pitch now houses just two goal posts, the only indication that football might be played on this small but mighty pitch.
Although, for the Butetown community of Tiger Bay, Saturdays allowed this ground to become the heart of the community, with Tiger Bay FC playing match after match to its loyal supporters.
The club’s roots began in 2009, started by first and second-generation Somali immigrants eager to play football but without much option in the area.
With seven teams spanning 100 players, Tiger Bay FC prides itself on giving its players an opportunity to play a sport they love in a diverse and inclusive way.
The Tiger Bay community is one which has often overcome hardship. A diverse community since the 19th century, Tiger Bay has been home to hundreds of people from varying backgrounds, since the community began at the heart of the Industrial Revolution when Cardiff’s docks were one of the most successful in the world.
26-year-old Tiger Bay FC Manager Mustafa Mohamed began playing for the club at 17, and since then has become instrumental in encouraging young players from around Butetown to join.
For many of those Mr Mohamed trains, Wales Online notes the majority have worked under his guidance since they were 14 years old.
As an area of Cardiff with reportedly the highest level of child poverty, Tiger Bay FC is incredibly important to its players, as a beacon of hope.
Speaking with Wales Online, Mustafa Mohamed noted,
“It takes a village to raise a child and that resides with us. There’s a lot of stigma about the Butetown area with drugs and crime and things like this, but in my opinion, it’s one of the safest places in Cardiff.
“You’ve got the freedom to express yourself, between your religion, your culture, the neighbours all know each other, everyone looks out for each other.
“When you’re part of a team you don’t want to go down the wrong path because everyone is watching you”.
Holding the games at Canal Park is incredibly important to the team, as the grounds stand opposite the Tiger Bay Community Centre, a building which has been integral to the community’s history since the 1960s.
As a community which is closer than arguably most in South Wales and Cardiff, the residents of Tiger Bay are glad to see that the team is getting the recognition it deserves, with clubs from all over Cardiff travelling to play against Tiger Bay FC.
For many, it is a place of safety and fun, and a way to escape when the world seems a little dark. For a community often forgotten about in the history and redevelopment of Cardiff, clubs like Tiger Bay FC are incredibly important and hold a value which is irreplaceable and holds an abundance of hope and love, shaping a community for players from the age of 14.
However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the crowds which once gathered are no longer taking their place in the stands and things seem a little quieter.
Tiger Bay FC seems like a football club unlikely to back down from a challenge, and there’s no doubt they’ll be back soon.