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Football unites

 

 On 26 June 2015, UNHCR and its partner, KASA Swiss Humanitarian Foundation, accomplishing  integration and youth projects, organised a‘’2015 World Refugee Football’’ initiative on the occasion of this year’s World Refugee Day campaign. Hence, ‘’Mika” football stadium in Yerevan hosted Blue and White teams with 24 players, among them asylum-seekers, refugees and displaced persons from Iraq, Syria and African countries, as well as, local players, among them UNHCR partners  and volunteers from European countries.

 

Alfa Amir Bah is an asylum-seeker from Conakry, the capital of Guinea: -“I am very happy that today many people from different nationalities and backgrounds have gathered to play football. This occasion grants us the opportunity to get together and show that we can and want to be united. Football is a great game! We can play together, win or lose, but anyhow make friends” – Alfa says and adds: ‘’I loveplaying football’’!

“Football is a popular game in Guinea. We would always play football after school hours at home. When I was small I was a great football player and a fan leader at football clubs. My friends would call me Christian Panucciin honor of the famous Italian footballer player”. – Alfa smiles.

Artyusha Movsisyan, one of the social workers of UNHCR partner, Mission Armenia NGO, specialised in emergency assistance projects for refugees and displaced Syrians, said that he accepted the call for participation in the football game with great enthusiasm.

 

‘’With the support of  UNHCR, our organisation has been carrying out a number of crucial assistance projects for refugees in the last few years: home care and social assistance, rental subsidy and medical assistance,legal aid, financial support and distribution of household items‘’. Artyusha said and added that 2015 World Refugee Day football game they enjoyed was an excellent opportunity to play with and for refugees.

 

“We play in a teams composed of refugees and locals. It demonstrates our good work, what we do for refugees; where we head to and what our goal is”.  –  Artyusha said.

 

Nazaret Pekejyan moved from Syria to Armenia some 11 years ago. “This football match reminds me of my childhood when we used to play football with our friends and neighbors:  “Such sweet memories I have of those days… It is also very important that people come together and get to know each other, and this football game gives us this opportunity”.

 

Azat Muradyan is a refugee from Iraq. His family moved to Armenia in 2007 when he was a little boy.Azat is a future dentist: “I graduated from the University two years ago, and I have even managed to do medical internship. But it’s hard to find a good job here in Armenia. However, I grew up in this country, so I feel happy and fully integrated in the Armenian society. I just long for better opportunities for myself, mainly, a well-paid job in Armenia’’ – Azat says.

Anahit  Hayrapetyan, External Relations and Public Information colleague at UNHCR mentioned the following about the ‘’2015 World Refugee Football’’ initiative. “The world witnessed the Armenian Genocide a century ago, and Syria was one of the countries which hosted thousands of Armenians, the survivors of those sorrowful events. Unfortunately, the story repeated after one century has passed: many Syrian-Armenian families, the children and grand-children of the survivors had to move to Armenia because of the war in Syria. This football game is just a good initiative in the frame of World Refugee Day to demonstrate refugees’ talent in sports, their willingness to play together,socialise with locals and foreigners and make new friends.  Football as a team-game promotes cooperation, friendship and respect towards each other. Similar occasions, like sport games, public activities, exhibition-sales and concerts which UNHCR and partners organise encourage and inspire displaced persons, at the same time, such occasions give us the opportunity to pay tribute to the refugee and displaced families in Armenia and worldwide for their courage, resilience, optimism and willingness to continue live and create. This initiativeaims at uniting people, be it locals, foreigners or displaced persons’’. Anahit Hayrapetyan concluded.

 

Lilit Kochinyan

 

 

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