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Chelsea to stage Open Iftar, United brings ‘Happy to Chat’ to Old Trafford

Stamford Bridge in London, England

Featured image credit: Chelsea FC

Chelsea has claimed a Premier League first by announcing it will host an Open Iftar at Stamford Bridge, while Manchester United has engaged with the ‘Happy to Chat’ initiative by installing a number of benches outside Old Trafford.

Taking place on March 26, Chelsea Foundation will host an Open Iftar at the side of the pitch at Stamford Bridge. This will be held as part of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting from before dawn to sunset, which takes place from March 22 until April 21.

The UK’s largest community event in Ramadan, Open Iftar is designed to allow Muslims observing Ramadan the opportunity to gather to break their fast together as well as providing a safe space for mutual dialogue and engagement.

A number of local mosques and members of Chelsea’s Muslim community, such as supporters and school students, will be invited to attend, along with club staff. The Open Iftar will be run in collaboration with the Ramadan Tent Project, a charity established in 2013 with a mission of bringing communities together and developing the understanding of Ramadan.

Ramadan Tent Project, who are this year celebrating their 10-year anniversary, organises the annual Ramadan Festival which is a yearly celebration of art, culture and creativity inspired by the holy month of Ramadan.

Omar Salha, founder and CEO of the Ramadan Tent Project, said: “For the past decade Ramadan Tent Project has connected and convened over half-a-million people from all backgrounds through its annual Ramadan Festival and flagship initiative Open Iftar.

“We are honoured to bring Open Iftar to Stamford Bridge, on the occasion of our 10-year anniversary and our 2023 theme of ‘Belonging’, and work in partnership with Chelsea FC who have been driving inclusivity in football. To such an extent, the ‘Pride of London’ will be the first Premier League club in history to host an Open Iftar event.

“Football and Ramadan brings people together over shared experiences and we are thrilled to share this important celebration with football supporters from all backgrounds, representing a community of communities.”

Ramadan will be recognised at Chelsea as part of the No To Hate campaign, which is a club-wide equality, diversity and inclusion programme that targets hate and discrimination and aims to educate all stakeholders inside and outside of the club, and the wider football family.

United’s conversation starter

United has installed several Happy to Chat benches on the forecourt at Old Trafford, in a bid to tackle loneliness.

The benches will remain permanently in place, seven days a week, with all welcome to sit down for a chat with whoever they encounter. Happy to Chat benches first became popular in 2019, and have since spread across the world.

United has engaged with the initiative after the idea was put forward by Jason Williamson, a Manchester United Foundation employee. He said: “The idea actually started from being in a local park near me. I’d just sat down on a bench while walking the dog and there was an older gentleman at the other end of the bench. He just started having a natter about his day and that kind of stuff. 

“It wasn’t until after he’d got up and left that I saw (a sign saying): ‘Sit here if you’re happy to talk.’ I just thought: what a lovely idea and initiative, to get people connecting. I just had a nice buzz about it. Maybe I’d been the only person that he’d chatted with that day. And I thought: ‘What a great initiative to introduce to Old Trafford.’ 

“Obviously, football is a massive talking point and Manchester United is a massive talking point, so why not have places where people can happily sit down and converse with each other about life, football or wherever it may lead?”