The charity arm of Barcelona FC has been offering refugee children living in the hotspots of the island of Lesvos free soccer training.
Organizers say the soccer training sessions for children hosted at two refugee camps on the Greek island promote dialogue, respect and tolerance among the young participants, helping to easing stress and nurture friendships.
“We know we can influence them, we can help them to dream, we can show them the future,” said Jordi Cardoner, vice president of Barcelona and the Barca Foundation.
Hundreds of children there have signed up to the Barca Soccer FutbolNet program since its implementation in July 2017, with the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the NGO Movement on the Ground.
Children from two refugee camps attend a soccer academy on the island. Training sessions last two hours and are held three times a week. The project employs coaches who are refugees themselves, and who have been granted asylum.
“These guys are unaccompanied minors, they are here without parents and they have nobody to tell them what´s right or wrong,” said Aesa Osso, a Syrian coach.
“So from this program they learn a lot of values like respect, they respect each other, teamwork, for example 20 children are living in a box and they help each other to clean up the room everyday,” he said, referring to the shipping containers many of camp residents live in. Many also live boxed in by plastic sheeting.
A third of participants in the program are girls.
Baloot Ali from Pakistan, who lives at the Kara Tepe refugee camp on Lesbos with her three sisters, dreams of becoming a football coach.
“They (people) used to say that football was only for boys, not for girls but now there is no difference between girls and boys. We are equal,” the 15-year-old told Reuters.