Updated: Sep 19, 2021
It’s September, and I’m in the heartland of football. The weather was so good, almost tropical, and it reminded me of my days in the Philippines with its warm and balmy breezes that embrace you, even when it rains. Typically, it is wet and gloomy in Manchester, as many would agree! Indeed the day was blessed with extraordinary sunshine to welcome the North Wales Dragons who came all the way from Llandudno to play and show support to the RAPAR football team, which is made up of refugees and people seeking asylum.
Since the RAPAR football project started roughly ten weeks ago, it has grown from strength to strength, gaining more support and attention. Together with RAPAR, we successfully encouraged other organisations to join in on the fun as well, and it allowed people from all over the world to make lifelong friends. The RAPAR football project is a refugee-led, sport-focused, psychosocial programme that aims to address the immediate and long-term needs of disadvantaged people by creating safe spaces, connections to wider services, and educational opportunities that lead to qualifications. More importantly, we are able to tackle social issues such as racism and challenge the discriminatory, derogatory narratives against refugees.
Our visitors, the North Wales Dragons, carry the same values of inclusion that encourage everyone to join. People from all walks of life are welcome. This is how Football for Humanity and the Dragons teamed up! North Wales Dragons are composed of community football teams who were primarily organised to help raise funds and create awareness for good causes. Since their formation, they have focused on using recreational football as a tool for physical and mental wellness, benefiting their own players, and that of businesses, charities, and community groups. After more exciting conversations with Co-founder of the Dragons, Chris Roberts, said:
“I love the Football for Humanity/RAPAR programme as it completely aligns with what we do, using recreational football as a tool for physical and mental wellness, as well as creating a safe community space where displaced citizens can come together, share experiences, hopes and dreams, while kicking a ball.”
No matter how complex your circumstances are, Football for Humanity and company are here to provide a platform of peace, fun, development, and opportunity. Sadly, discrimination is still very much alive in the wider society. I believe much of it is due to a lack of understanding and education, and how the issue is wrongfully distorted in mass and social media.
I have been in a war zone and witnessed first-hand the lives of people violently displaced by terrorism, who were helpless, constantly traumatized, had zero possessions, were frantic to survive, and desperate to protect their wives, their children, their families against possible violence and murder, just because they belong to a different faith or they carry different opinions or beliefs. Once we have actually stepped in someone’s elses shoes, or see the world through their eyes, then perhaps we will find enlightenment.
Then we will have compassion for refugees who feel there is no safe place for them in the world. This is where North Wales Dragons, Football for Humanity, RAPAR, Status Now, No Borders, the Manchester FA and the University of Manchester rallied – to raise awareness, develop relationships, connect communities and enlighten a nation.
Game-day 2 is fast approaching and we hope we are able to travel to North Wales and play in a small stadium, engage in social and cultural activities, eat famous ice cream and dodge the infamous sweeping seagulls who are "rumoured" to have been “secretly trained by the Welsh to attack the English!"
Our programme is progressing and our partnerships expanding, so if this sounds like something you might be able to support or strengthen, we would be delighted to hear from you. Hopefully, one day soon, we can welcome our friends from Afghanistan to join in on the fun. As we say, from different roads, we journey as one!
Get in touch with me at email@example.com, and let’s do this together!