The Greek Forum of Refugees and the refugee communities know very well how important the skills and talents that the refugees have are, skills which can be shown through sports and can be the main tool for integration in the most effective way. The refugees in the Greek society are in a position to utilize what they know and there is no better way to do that than sports, especially football, which is so popular in Greece.
For a long time now, the communities have been asking for a chance to play ball! Now we have the team of GFR’s refugees, with players from different countries, with different languages and cultures, training and playing with mutual respect together with other teams from fellow organizations that we honor and thank.
In GFR, we took the chance given by the project MATCH: Social Inclusion Opportunities that came from Italy (cesie.org) and even with minimal chances through it we managed to enter the field with the help of Migrants Integration Council (SEM) of the City of Athens and OPANDA, to whom we are grateful.
The project, however, has many difficulties, mainly practical ones. Securing the proper clothing, footwear, water or snacks needed, even the fare in order for our athletes to travel between their hosting place, which may be too far away from Athens, and the fields –many times they are in a hurry to catch the last train to Malakasa– has been extremely difficult. Another most important problem is the lack of medical care in the place that these people train (but everyone comes to the rescue for those that have taken a fall!).
But despite the obstacles and the fact that doors “do not easily open” for us, we move forward having mostly the understanding of our athletes and the amazing effort of Kennedy, our coach, a refugee from Nigeria himself, with years of experience on his back, who comes running even for the practical issues (our players do not wear a different shoe in each leg on a whim!) while teammates many times cover the expenses personally.
Manager of the team is Josephine Ngendakumana, herself a refugee from the long-suffering Burundi, supported by Foteini Kalpakioti, a GFR volunteer for years with a special concern for women. So women are actively involved in this effort not only administratively but also, soon, we will be announcing a female team!
We move forward despite the difficulties and we advance with the hope that we will achieve our goal. We always need the solidarity and practical support of all of you to make it!
Thursday, April 19, at 10 a.m. in Kypseli’s soccer field our first friendly match will be held.