The intimate and unfiltered stories from camps in Jordan, Kenya and South Sudan have created a platform for untold stories. With photos and texts coming from 28 refugee storytellers, the common language of football ties each story together.
As Mahmoud, a refugee from Syria, explains: “I started to love sports when I was a child in Daraa, Syria, and now a day of sports helps me to heal from the depression and sadness in the camp. I played football in Syria with my school team but left because of the war. I enjoy playing football and it gives me hope.”
The UNHCR promotes sports participation as a vital way of improving self-worth and confidence. This can help people recover from past traumas and also find the self-confidence to begin an apprenticeship or start a new job.
Matthew Barrett, the Founder of Goal Click, added that the series aims to challenge existing stereotypes and give an intimate look into refugees’ football lives, in a way that no one from outside these communities could do. He added: “Now, more than ever, the voices of the marginalised need to be heard.”
One of those voices is Shegofa Hassani, 21, a refugee from Afghanistan, who is now a football coach. Her passion for football started as a child when she played with her brothers. However, she hesitated to pursue it further because of cultural barriers and her family.
This campaign has given her a platform to share her message with other girls. She explains: ‘I want more and more Afghan girls to dream big…We fled Afghanistan because of the conflict. I started playing football in the park with my brothers and dad. As my brothers started to play with a club, naturally I wanted to follow but initially my mum was reluctant because of our culture and what people would say. I feel like my truest self when I am on the football pitch. It is where I feel most empowered and most connected with people around me.”
Goal Click Refugees will be a year-long campaign, building towards a physical exhibition during the UEFA European Football Championship in 2021. The full series can be viewed as an online exhibition on the UNHCR website.