‘It Makes Me Feel Free’ – Football Helps Displaced in Spain Find their Feet

‘It Makes me Feel Free’ – Football Helps Displaced in Spain Find their Feet

© Goal Click/UNHCR/CAR Alcobendas/Jamil

MADRID – In 2021, Goal Click Refugees found many willing participants in Spain, despite the constraints of the pandemic. From a refugee reception centre (CAR) in Alcobendas, Madrid, to programmes run by the NGO CESAL, football has played a huge role in helping refugees after displacement.

© Goal Click/UNHCR/CAR Alcobendas/Natalia Acero

“It makes me feel free,” said Deisy, 36, who plays with CESAL.

“It fills me with pride to be able to continue playing soccer here in Spain.” Before being forced to flee her home in Colombia, she had been called up to the national squad but had to drop out after a serious knee injury. Now she’s back playing in a Madrid league for Club Fulanita de Tal.

“I have regained that dream that soccer gave me,” she said. “It helps me disconnect from my personal problems, it unites me more every day with my teammates – and I know many people thanks to football.”

© Goal Click/UNHCR/ Deisy Yourley Vélez Torres

© Goal Click/UNHCR/ Deisy Yourley Vélez Torres

“It makes me feel free,” said Deisy, 36, who plays with CESAL.

“It fills me with pride to be able to continue playing soccer here in Spain.” Before being forced to flee her home in Colombia, she had been called up to the national squad but had to drop out after a serious knee injury. Now she’s back playing in a Madrid league for Club Fulanita de Tal.

“I have regained that dream that soccer gave me,” she said. “It helps me disconnect from my personal problems, it unites me more every day with my teammates – and I know many people thanks to football.”

Colombia is itself a generous host of refugees – in February it announced an initiative to provide 10-year temporary protection status to Venezuelans in the country. Yet violence and clashes among armed groups have left a legacy of displacement.

Also playing with CESAL, which helps asylum-seekers and refugees settle in Spain and learn the language, is Muhyadin, 20, from Sudan. He came to Europe via Libya. A massive fan of Real Madrid and Sergio Ramos, his photos were taken with friends from Syria, Senegal, and Mali at the Atlético de Madrid stadium.

“It was a happy day; we were like a big family. I wanted to show the love we all have for soccer,” he said. “Children who play football can dream of a better life, to travel around the world being a football player, they can imagine better lives. It is healthy and hopeful.”

© Goal Click/UNHCR/CESAL

© Goal Click/UNHCR/CESAL

Colombia is itself a generous host of refugees – in February it announced an initiative to provide 10-year temporary protection status to Venezuelans in the country. Yet violence and clashes among armed groups have left a legacy of displacement.

Also playing with CESAL, which helps asylum-seekers and refugees settle in Spain and learn the language, is Muhyadin, 20, from Sudan. He came to Europe via Libya. A massive fan of Real Madrid and Sergio Ramos, his photos were taken with friends from Syria, Senegal, and Mali at the Atlético de Madrid stadium.

“It was a happy day; we were like a big family. I wanted to show the love we all have for soccer,” he said. “Children who play football can dream of a better life, to travel around the world being a football player, they can imagine better lives. It is healthy and hopeful.”

He would like to play for Manchester United but in the meantime enjoys playing with his pals and locals. “The Spanish people are kind,” he added. “They became my friends, and they are always smiling.”

Goal Click/UNHCR/ Deisy Yourley Vélez Torres

© Goal Click/UNHCR/ Deisy Yourley Vélez Torres

He would like to play for Manchester United but in the meantime enjoys playing with his pals and locals. “The Spanish people are kind,” he added. “They became my friends, and they are always smiling.”

At the CAR, Jamil, 10, from Syria told how football had helped him start to leave behind the rupture of displacement. “Above all, it helps me learn the language,” he said. “We play with people of many nationalities and it is real fun, each one plays in their own language.”

© Goal Click/UNHCR/CESAL

At the CAR, Jamil, 10, from Syria told how football had helped him start to leave behind the rupture of displacement. “Above all, it helps me learn the language,” he said. “We play with people of many nationalities and it is real fun, each one plays in their own language.”

Another participant was Natalia Acero, 36. She had fled Colombia due to gang violence. Her pictures were taken in a local park and sports centre. “I wanted to show that women are capable of playing better than men, and second that we can be a great support for our children to achieve their goals.” Football also helped her connect with her son. Her aim for the future is stability: “a place to live, get a job and continue my professional studies.”

© Goal Click/UNHCR/CAR Alcobendas/Natalia Acero

Another participant was Natalia Acero, 36. She had fled Colombia due to gang violence. Her pictures were taken in a local park and sports centre. “I wanted to show that women are capable of playing better than men, and second that we can be a great support for our children to achieve their goals.” Football also helped her connect with her son. Her aim for the future is stability: “a place to live, get a job and continue my professional studies.”

Ghayth, 13, came to Spain from Syria via Lebanon. His pictures showed CAR residents and his cousins. “Football is the language that has allowed me to meet new people, that opens doors for me,” he said. Through the CAR he is playing for a local team, making new pals and improving his Spanish. His dream: to be the next Cristiano Ronaldo.

© Goal Click/UNHCR/CAR Alcobendas/Jamil

Ghayth, 13, came to Spain from Syria via Lebanon. His pictures showed CAR residents and his cousins. “Football is the language that has allowed me to meet new people, that opens doors for me,” he said. Through the CAR he is playing for a local team, making new pals and improving his Spanish. His dream: to be the next Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sohuad, 12, is also Syrian. “I started playing in Spain,” she said. “In my country girls don’t play soccer.”

“It’s the only thing that interests me,” she added, “I don’t want to win or lose, I just want to have fun.” She sees her future off the pitch, as a dentist.

© Goal Click/UNHCR/CAR Alcobendas/Ghayth Amino

Sohuad, 12, is also Syrian. “I started playing in Spain,” she said. “In my country girls don’t play soccer.”

“It’s the only thing that interests me,” she added, “I don’t want to win or lose, I just want to have fun.” She sees her future off the pitch, as a dentist.

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Goal Click Refugees Introduction

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Opening doors for Afghan girls in Australia & Austria

06

A game that unifies after displacement in Africa

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In Conflict-Torn Eastern Ukraine, Football Offers a Path to Hope

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‘It Makes me Feel Free’ – Football Helps Displaced in Spain Find their Feet

09

Teaching Tolerance Through Football in Ukraine.

10

Football the icebreaker, bringing unity on and off the pitch in Australia

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