“It was my father who taught us that an immigrant must work twice as hard as anybody else, that he must never give up.”
An absolute favorite quote stated by a footballer – I adore more than anyone else – Zinedine Zidane.
This is a call to action for the idealists around me.
Imagine a world where more people focused on sustaining their lives and if possible, of those around them, rather than on the constant need of a high-speed Internet zone or displaying symptoms of ‘nomophobia’.
The reality of a better life has driven many in infinite latitudinal and longitudinal lines across the globe. If you read till this point, you would be aware of your own roots that took from you where you were supposed to be to where you are – decisions made at some point all for the sake of a ‘better living’.
Unfortunately, this world does not need that fancying — as that place, in general, does not exist.
However, something dreamlike (for many of these migrants) is taking place in Europe, with the drive being led by the Germans, paradoxically. As the region erupts with an influx of refugees, primarily from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, Germany had displayed its true colors with reports that it might accept as many as 800,000 asylum seekers with a reported spending of approximately, $6.6 billion. The rest of Europe is slowly catching up.
Tying it back to what we normally talk about, as many of us have been made aware of in past few months or so, German football clubs have not shied away from taking a stance on the topic either. The global refugee crisis and their suffering has provoked an outburst of support from clubs and fans alike, with banners stating “Refugees welcome” seen across the various stadia.
Furthermore, it was German powerhouse Bayern Munich that initially led the series of high profile aids towards the refugees announcing $1.1 million in funds to set up a training camp for children of refugees. Several other clubs like Borussia Dortmund, Mainz and St. Pauli had invited refugees to attend friendly matches held across the country. Clubs like Leverkusen and Schalke have initiated charity programs, offering children an opportunity to join their esteemed football academies.
Since the ascendency to the path of helping those that needed had begun by the Germans, many others across Europe have come forward with their own suggestions and concepts. Portugal’s FC Porto had scribbled an official letter to UEFA requesting all clubs in the Champions League to donate one euro from each ticket sold in the first two round of games to the cause. Spanish giants Real Madrid had recently announced that the club would donate €1 million with “the aim of supporting men, women and children who have been forced to leave their homes in order to flee from war and death.”
Initiatives like helping them when they are young could be beneficial for clubs in the longer run, in the sense that not only does it help their respective CSR efforts; it also creates lifelong affinity for a fan’s towards the club and in rarity of cases – identify a talent the club can capitalize on.
Such was the case of Syrian 17-year-old Mohammed Jaddou, the U-16 star who is currently seeking asylum in Germany. His story was laid out exquisitely by journalist James Montague in a recent NYT article and in his heartwarming short-form documentary for Copa90.
But how does one feel when they hear the details behind the strenuous journey many refugees endure? In Jaddou’s case, James’ intention was to put some light into why an upcoming youngster decided to up and leave, especially when Jaddou had an opportunity to represent Syria in the U-17 World Cup to be held in Chile, later this year.
“Mohammed has endured more than many people will experience in their entire lives before he is 18. The journey from Syria alone, in the hands of people smugglers, would have been a horrific experience many wouldn’t recover from. And although he is safe in Germany, there is still sadness. His mother and family are back home, he misses his homeland and he has sacrificed the chance to play in the U-17 World Cup Finals. But he is optimistic. Life will get better.”
“I hope the article helps in some small way to highlight the sacrifices people make. The choices people make. The loved ones refugees leave behind. And maybe it might help him to restart his career. He is a supremely talented young player. I’ve just spent a few days with him in southern Germany, recording a film for Copa 90. I have a feeling he will play at a high level.”
Several English clubs have adopted the “Refugees Welcome” campaign as well – with Aston Villa being the highest-profile club to endorse the campaign, however, with UK seemingly hesitant in accepting migrants, it is doubtful that the movement will have a parallel stretch like that observed in Germany.
Even those in far corners of the earth (referring to South American nation) who have consistently taken Syrian and Lebanese immigrants for decades now have opened up their arms to welcome a few more.
But the unfortunate question, for people residing in the Middle Eastern region, remains — why aren’t these refugees gunning it for the Middle Eastern countries? Why are they risking it all as they step onto the rickety boats hoping to make it to Europe?
The answer is known. Middle Eastern countries have made it quite clear that non-citizens are nothing but temporary visitors – an individual who is expected to leave after a certain time (even if the person has lived in the country for a miniscule 40+ years). The discomfort of not knowing what the future holds for in the region coupling with the fact the Western region offers a secure state of existence is the primary reason. And secondly, Middle East, for all the hospitality it shows to foreigners has not been too cordial to the global refugees crisis considering any such action taken could potentially dry out funds to sustain itself.
And as it stands, only one Middle Eastern club has come out offering any sort of financial or physical help to those in need, which is quite unfortunate.
Yet, Qatar for all the slack that it receives from global media, recently announced all revenues from ticket sales from Round four onwards of the Qatar Stars League (the professional football league in Qatar) will be donated to the refugees via it’s national charity organization – Qatar Charity.
The trials are only to begin for the refugees and their hosts, but just those who decided to uproot, in the past, in the hope of a brighter future. The question remains if those who are successful can take advantage of the opportunities the West provides in order to cruise forward.
And as for the relation to football, the refugees have certainly not made their way through to Europe for football, but it would be tough to refute the diplomatic role the game can play. Football is a language in its own and has the ability to tie people together, even if they are based in different corners of the world.