Football is continuing to make a positive impact at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, the world’s largest camp for Syrian refugees. Thanks to the collaboration between LaLiga, Spanish clubs and AFDP Global, the global football social enterprise, a new football league was launched at Za’atari in the summer of 2019. Six months later, its influence has expanded.
Tournaments for Under-15 boys and Under-13 girls commenced on September 1st, with each of the teams being paired with one of 33 participating clubs, who donated kits, boots and footballs along with other equipment. “We now hold matchdays twice a week and it is amazing to watch the effect on the morale of the boys and girls,” explained Javier García, one of the two LaLiga coaches based at the camp.
Having received widespread media coverage upon its launch, interest in the competition has grown and this has attracted additional support, allowing the organisers to invest further resources.
“The LaLiga Za’atari project has brought together many organisations that share a common understanding,” said Izzat Jandali, the other LaLiga coach at Za’atari. “In total there have been 17 organisations participating in our competitions, from Finn Church to Save the Children to UNICEF.”
A key new supporter is Blumont (formerly known as International Relief and Development), one of the largest organisations working in Za’atari under the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to manage camp activities. Thanks to the extra human resource offered by this partnership, the league can reach further across the five square kilometre site.
“Our collaboration with UNHCR is very positive and fluid,” Jandali noted. “As well as increasing the rollout of sports activities, it has opened up the possibility of working side by side with organisations such as Blumont.”
Garcia added: “Through this collaboration, we are training new male and female coaches and have increased our scope of activities to the rest of the 12 districts that make up Za’atari.”
Working with LaLiga and the LaLiga Foundation, the Za’atari coaches have designed a programme that combines football training with education and mindfulness techniques, helping youngsters develop social as well as physical abilities. With recent growth, the number of children reached by the programme has already reached 950.
“The children have assimilated the values of this project and are showing extraordinary ability taking into account their circumstances and environment,” Jandali said. “The girls are very excited that we have brought a stable and regular competition and already identify with the clubs that have made donations to the project.”
The involvement of LaLiga clubs is expected to increase over the coming months with plans to create what will be known as ‘club days’. “This will be a day or several days specifically dedicated to the club in question, in which various types of events will be held such as football tournaments, workshops, exhibitions or competitions,” Garcia explained.
This success is important not just on a sporting level but on a human one, given the difficult surroundings of the camp. “Life is not easy in Za'atari,” García added. “The rainy season has already begun and we also have to face temperatures close to zero degrees, without water and electricity guaranteed. But football helps to overcome these challenges. Despite everything, the children are coming to training with more enthusiasm than ever.”