GIVING HOPE TO ZA’ATARI’S YOUNG REFUGEES WITH UEFA
A partnership between AFDP Global and the UEFA Foundation for Children
Millions of people, mostly women and children, have fled their homes in Syria with barely the clothes on their back. In partnership with UEFA, a ground-breaking football programme for children and young people has been developed in Za’atari, the largest of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) camps in Northern Jordan that provides a home for thousands of refugees from the Syrian civil war.
From the outset, our aim was to show that football can make a vital difference to the lives of Za’atari’s young refugees. Against a backdrop of trauma and displacement, we wanted to provide an opportunity for young people to rediscover joy through playing football and to help thousands of children to interact with their peers, develop lasting friendships and learn the fundamental values of respect, fair play and team spirit.
With this shared goal in mind, we began to work with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) in 2012 to build a football programme for Za’atari’s young refugees from the ground up.
From the start, we knew that a comprehensive and sustainable football programme would depend on a cohort of professional coaches and refugees.
Our ambition was not to rely on external professionals, but to offer world-class training to adults living in the camp, enabling them to develop the skills required to run bespoke coaching sessions and to manage clubs and leagues. This programme of staff development was central to the sustained social impact of the project. We recognised that refugee staff would be able to relate to children involved in the project in a unique way, having also experienced the trauma of fleeing the war in Syria. Together with UEFA, we were also ambitious about providing sustainable employment opportunities in the Za’atari camp.
“All the children that arrive are completely devastated, they have seen their family members killed before their eyes and the journey to Jordan was a difficult one. Through football we at least try to remove the sense of fear and regain some sense of normalcy.”
Bassam Omar al Taleb, a 31-year old Syrian refugee who now works as a trained football coach in Za’atari.
As a result of the UEFA Foundation for Children’s training programmes, delivered in partnership with AFDP Global over the last six years:
250 individuals, 87 women and 163 men, have achieved coaching qualifications and secured long-term employment as youth football coaches working in Za’atari.
54 referees, including 21 women, have also qualified. As part of their training they were taught to use football as a tool for trauma recovery, social cohesion and conflict resolution.
Co-ordinated from the UEFA Foundation for Children’s “House of Sports” in Za’atari, trained staff now ensure that thousands of children and young people, both girls and boys, can play football and develop core skills and values in a fun and safe environment.
Looking forward, our work with the UEFA Foundation for Children is continuing to grow. The numbers of children participating in regular football activities is set to exceed 5,000 and more than 700 girls and boys are participating in new activities delivered by trained instructors, including martial arts and Zumba. Each and every activity is carefully designed to enable Za’atari’s young refugees to form friendships, learn social skills and re-discover what it means to be a child in unimaginable circumstances.