Hoops & Loops invited to World Cup team training

Hoops and Loops, the LGBTQ+ refugee and asylum seeker support group run by Mark Lewis at City URC in Cardiff, was invited by the Welsh Government to take part in its final preparations to support the Welsh team at the Football World Cup in the controversial host country of Qatar.

Mark was asked to make up a group to accompany Minister for Economy Vaughan Gething’s party to the final pre-World Cup training session of the Welsh team at Cardiff City Stadium before the squad left for Qatar later that day. The party included Dawn Bowden, Deputy Minister for Sport.

Vaughan Gething told the Senedd: ‘Earlier today, I was joined by members of Hoops and Loops while attending the final pre-world cup training session at Cardiff City Stadium.’ He explained members of the group had come to Wales to ‘escape domestic violence, persecution and even the threat of death’.

He emphasized: ‘Wales’s status as a nation of sanctuary matters. It is a core part of the values we choose to stand for,’ adding, ‘I am delighted that those who are building a new life here were able to join us as we mark this major moment in Welsh sporting history.’

Mark said: ‘It was a wonderful experience for them. We met two Ministers of the Welsh Government. It meant a lot. They couldn’t believe they were being so highly honoured by such an important body. Some were in tears.’

Vaughan Gething now plans to visit Hoops and Loops at City URC to talk to members and see how the group works. Mark’s fame is spreading. He has now been invited to speak at the Students’ Union of Cardiff University on Mental Health and Migrants.

In his statement to the Senedd, Mr Gething said the World Cup would present significant opportunities to raise the profile of Wales. First Minister Mark Drakeford would attend Wales’s first World Cup match for 64 years and he would attend the match with England.

Welsh Ministers would not be attending the controversial Iran game but would be supporting Wales from home. He said that, along with other progressive nations with teams in this tournament, Wales would continue to raise serious concerns about workers’ rights and LGBTQ+ rights in Qatar.