Football tournament brings refugee youth together in GreeceIn Greek mainland sites, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) organizes recreational activities aiming to provide an inclusive and safe environment for all residents who often come from many different countries.
“I need more tournaments and training, cause it’s one of the best things that happened to me for a long time.”
Twenty-three-year-old Shimal Sabri Taha words refer to the last football tournament organized by DRC in Koutsochero site, Central Greece.
For young men on site, this was an opportunity to meet other residents of different nationalities for the first time, enjoy the game or let go of old grudges.
The limited activities for young men often seen in refugee contexts can lead to mounting frustrations. In Greece, this is often the case, where waiting period for the completion of asylum seekers’ application procedures can take more than six months.
DRC protection teams seek to engage refugee youth and particularly males in diverse activities with the support of the European Commission, Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO) across mainland refugee sites in Greece.
DRC staff member and former professional footballer Husam Naim instructs refugee players
The football tournament in Koutsochero came after a month of regular football training of 140 participants. The tournament was organized by Husam Naim, a DRC Cultural Mediator and former professional football player, and included four teams of ten players, allowing the mixed teammates to gain respect for each other’s skills and teamwork.
“Although I didn’t get to play all the way, I was happy to watch my new friends and motivated to train more for our team, giving my all,” said 25-year-old Lionel Kokolo Makota from Congo.
“This activity personally helped me develop my football and social skills and it gave us something to look forward to in these hard times,” says 26-year-old Rashed Mualla from Kuwait.
Refugee men in Koutsochero in football training sessions
Most participants shared feelings of joy and friendship when asked about the tournament and training sessions. For Palestinian Syrian Amir Dib the most important thing was the strengthening of relationships among participants and “there are now people that I can call friends”.
Ayoub Sheik Khamis and Ahmand Al Yousef from Syria also pointed to the organization of the tournament. “I’m grateful to DRC, especially for providing the customs that made us feel like real players,” said Ayoub, “and I was very surprised,” Ahmand added, “I didn’t expect this much support; with all the customs and rewards”.
Many of the young men said they dream of becoming professional footballers and be part of the Greek sports community.