In a Syrian refugee camp, where football plays the role of the “mother”

When FIFA conducts its draw for the 2014 World Cup amid the glitz and glamour of a luxury coastal resort  in Bahia, Brazil, please spend at least three seconds thinking about football played somewhere else in the world.

Like a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan that currently hosts 120,000 refugees fleeing the civil war, a number that is estimated to grow by 400 each day.

Kids play football in the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan. Football is a 'mother'.

Kids play football in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. Football is a ‘mother’. Pic borrowed from Getty Images.

Jonathan Wilson has written about his visit to Za’atari for The Guardian. It is a compelling story that explains how football is helping everyone in the camp – men, women, and kids – find some light in a very dark situation.

Of course, “camp” is a loose description. It’s now a city – the fourth-largest in Jordan and fast growing – and repeating an experience for the Jordanian government that started in 1948 with Palestinian refugees and again during the war in Iraq.

“The children arrive completely devastated,” a refugee called Bassam told Wilson.

“Many of them have seen family members killed before their eyes. The journey to Jordan is a difficult one. So what we’re trying to do is through football to remove the sense of fear and give them some sense of normalcy. Football is the most popular sport; it plays the role of the mother. It’s the only outlet that children have. It’s a very difficult life here in the refugee camp and football alleviates their suffering.”

Za'atari refugee camp. Jordan's fourth-largest "city". Pic borrowed from AP.

Za’atari refugee camp. Jordan’s fourth-largest “city”. Pic borrowed from AP.

Like I said, just think about that for three seconds. Then you can “relive”, as FIFA.com suggests, “the allocation of pots announcement” and everything will be “normal” again.

Or instead maybe check out these images that show life in Za’atari.

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