Philly's Unity Cup soccer tournament helps unify players from Burkina Faso

Justin Udo
September 21, 2019 - 4:00 am

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Unity Cup is a world cup style soccer tournament that lets Philadelphians who are foreign born or want to represent their ethnic background compete against each other, and one player says the games are helping unite people from a country thousands of miles away.

Burkina Faso is a small landlocked West African country of about 20 million people and until just a few years ago, Blaise Compaoré worked as head of state.

"He was there for a long time, so it wasn't really a democratic country. Our president got chased away by the population," said Hervet Tassembedo, who is from Burkina Faso.

He says since Compaoré's ousting, soccer has been one common bond for many from a place experiencing so much unrest.

"Unity Cup is like an opportunity for us, because we have a lot of division in the country. Right now, playing in the Unity Cup is helping us bring people together," he added. 

Tassembedo says that division dissipates when players from the country get on the field together, and he's hoping that camaraderie is something that can remain when the tournament is over.

"I really want people through this competition to show the unity, because we cannot do anything if we are divided." 

He says the Unity Cup is also helping introduce the country to people who did not know it existed and shine a light on what's going on there.

This is Burkina Faso's first year in the Unity Cup. The team has made it to the round of eight and play Brazil on Sunday.