The refugee crisis in Europe has provided many reactions. A Hungarian camera operator, Petra Lazlo, put herself in the story by infamously kicking a young Syrian girl before tripping a man attempting carry his son to some semblance of safety.
The man was later identified as Osama Abdul Mohsen, a professional coach from Syria. Mohsen was welcomed to Spain , given a job and accommodation by a football academy near Madrid and his kids were guests of honor (and mascots) at a Real Madrid game. The club stepped up donating €1m to refugees reaching Spain and set up football camps for those arriving from Eastern Europe, North Africa, and Arab states.
Moved by the plight of father and son, Miguel Angel Galan — president of CENAFE, a football academy in Madrid — reached out to Martin Mucha, a journalist with the Spanish daily, El Mundo, in an attempt to find them.
Accompanied by Arabic-speaking footballer Mohamed Labrouzi, who plays for Villaverde in Spain, Mucha set out to find Mohsen. According to his account, they scoured Munich — where thousands of refugees have arrived — and eventually found Mohsen.
He was watching a Champions’ League game in a Munich café.
At first Mohsen did not believe anyone would want to help him. But, Labrouzi told him that “a man called Miguel was moved by your story. He is a friend and trusted me with the logistics.”
Within hours, Mohsen and Zaid were on a flight to Paris, and from there a long train journey to Madrid, where they arrived late Wednesday.
“It’s a dream for me to be here. Thank you Madrid, thank you Spain,” said Mohsen to the Spanish press upon arrival. He hopes his wife and two daughters can join him in the capital.
Luis Miguel Pedraza of CENAFE told Spanish media Wednesday: “We’re giving him a hand as a humanitarian gesture. Later we’ll look for something. He’s interested in our school.
“The first thing is to get him settled.”
Fans in Germany displayed banners during matches welcoming fans and Bayern Munich donated €1 million to charity and announced plans to open a camp for refugees settling in Bavaria. Paris-St Germain made a similar financial commitment while Porto suggested UEFA donate €1 from tickets sold during the Champions League group stages to refugee charities. All clubs agreed.
Goal has a good summary of who did what and who did not – including fans of Maccabi Tel Aviv of Israel displaying a banner that read “Refugees Not Welcome.”
Eric Cantona, the former Manchester United star turned actor, is often highlighted for an unorthodox approach to football and life. In the shadow of the crisis, he took another unorthodox step – if unorthodox can be described as doing exactly what he is able to do.
Cantona is opening up his home near Marseille, France, to refugees.
“I’m organising that with authorities in Marseille,” Cantona told France Inter radio, explaining he intended to provide a small house, garden and food.
“If you house someone who does not have the right to work, then they need to eat too.”
For Cantona, his family’s own experience played a part in his own direct action.
“My maternal grandparents were Spanish Republicans who fled Franco by crossing the Pyrenees on foot. That being our story, it certainly played a role.”
Football can be ugly. Football can be corrupt. But sometimes, the actions of some people within the game demonstrate its power for good.