For many people currently living in refugee camps, the days can start to blend together. Our football program provides a break from the monotony for our friends living in Moria hotspot, a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos, where we work. Our team of volunteers and interns from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, the U.S., and Uruguay holds football practices every Tuesday and Sunday evening. Practices are at night to escape the Greek heat!
One of our volunteers talks with a child during football.
Children and mothers play on Tuesdays, and fathers play on Sundays. The children look forward to football; almost every day of the week a child asks us if there will be football that day! We transport participants to and from football practice by bus, which is arranged through our Greek partner NGO, Syniparxi. The football field where we hold our program is owned and operated by our dear friends Mr. and Mrs. Spanos, who have shown tremendous support for people who are refugees by providing space and equipment for our program as well as those run by other NGOs on the island.
Mohammed, one of our translation interns, leads the children off to football practice!
On Tuesdays, the children start football with fun warm-ups led by several of our wonderful volunteer coaches, who are currently refugees themselves. As part of warm-ups, the children play games like tag, relay races, and more. Once they’re ready to play, we divide them up into two teams and the older children play a game of football and the younger ones play with each other or with volunteers. While the children are playing, many of their mothers choose to play football or volleyball on a field adjacent to the one used by the children. Other mothers come just to watch their kids have fun! After football is over, everyone has water and healthy snacks and then heads back to Moria for the night. This past week, we received a donation of children’s jerseys from Refugee for Refugees and gave them out at the end of practice. The kids loved them!
Fathers come out on Sunday nights for king-of-the field style play. Everyone picks a team, and the winner of each match gets to stay on the field until another team knocks them out. Our interns from Syria, Iraq, and Yemen play with them; one of them always referees the games. We stand on the sidelines cheering them on and making sure there’s always water! Afterwards, everyone gets snacks and more water. Two weeks ago, we were able to allow each of the men to pick out a new shirt courtesy of individual donors from the U.S.
Besides getting to see everyone out and having fun, one of our favorite things about our football program is how many people come together each week to make it happen. We’re grateful to the Spanos family for allowing us to use their field, Syniparxi for helping us arrange transportation, the refugees that volunteer their time to come coach and referee, our hard-working volunteers, all our donors, the bus drivers who provide a ride with a smile, and most importantly, everyone who comes out to play each week.