Football is the world’s most popular game transcending barriers and uniting people from all backgrounds and nationalities.
Across the globe, football is seen as a way of life for many. It has no borders and is universal.
The Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS) together with the Malta Olympic Committee launched the opening of a football pitch at the Marsa Open Centre on the 14th of July with a 5 a-side football tournament.
Football plays a central role in breaking down cultural and social barriers within communities, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.
“Football is a big part of my life. I have been playing since I was young” says Ibrahim, a team player from Marsa Open Centre. “Eventually I would like us to compete in tournaments outside of the open centers, that way we communicate with new people, and join the community”.
This is also a very special year for sports in general as the European football Championship has just finished, and the Rio Olympics days are just around the corner. The International Olympic Committee announced the selection of 10 refugees who will compete this August in Rio de Janeiro, forming the first-ever Refugee Olympic Athletes team, which will include an IOC/UNHCR engagement hub inside the Olympic village. They include two Syrian swimmers, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a marathoner from Ethiopia and five middle-distance runners from South Sudan. At a time when 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes to escape conflict and persecution, the Refugee Olympic Athletes team represents the courage, resilience and untapped talent that lies within refugee communities worldwide.
“Occasions such as the opening of a football pitch at the Marsa Open Centre and the participation of refugees in sports confirms that not only individuals benefit in terms of physical and mental well being but also unites and inspires communities” Beat Shuler, UNHCR Representative to Malta, said.
The home team from Marsa Open Centre walked away with the trophy, which was presented to them by former Arsenal and England football player Alan Sunderland.
Text and photos of this article may be republished or reproduced in part or in full, with credit to the author (UNHCR/Sarah Mallia) and the photographer (UNHCR/D. Rankovic).