“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has a power to unite people in a way that little else does” – Nelson Mandela
On 18 March, 2016 we saw these very words come into action at the first social integration soccer game. 20 local football players from Zurich, and 30 players from the temporary asylum centre in Witikon got together to participate in a sport that speaks an international language.
Football shoes and shirts were donated by a local Zurich football club, delicious half time food was provided by Mel, and there was even a spectator base cheering on from the sidelines. What started off as a simple idea, quickly took off. Our Facebook group now has nearly 100 members, and we have had games every month since.
Social integration soccer also sparked a new initiative. In collaboration with the progressive Swiss football association, more commonly known as Alternativliga, we started to place individual refugees in different teams in the league. The social integration soccer games served as recruiting events. The idea is to give players a chance to integrate into a local football team, make local friends and play games against other teams on a regular basis. Four players have since gone on to join the Real Azul team.
At Real Azul the season could have gone better in terms of results. We lost most of our games but got better and better towards the end. Muhammad, our refugee forward, was the team’s top scorer and the main reason we finally won the last game of the season. After this last game we had a team barbecue with all four Afghan reinforcements, where we watched the final game of the European championship and shared a delicious Afghan barbecue with our new friends and teammates. Now we can’t wait for the next season to start!
Numerous other teams in the league also volunteered to take in refugees and the Alternativliga even set up a partnership with a football store and offered to pay for equipment. At the moment there are more openings for refugees than refugees available to fill the slots. Thus far, communication barriers have prevented us from recruiting as many players as we would have hoped. But we are working hard on expanding this project.
If you know any male or female refugees (there is also a big women’s league) that would be interested in joining a local team, please get in touch.
Now that summer is at its end, we look forward to seeing you all on the field in 2017. If you are interested in supporting the coordination of this project next year, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Also, don’t forget to sign up to our Facebook group to find out about our future matches!