Leveling the Playing Field through Soccer for Palestinian Refugees
Anera and Inter Campus are aiming to build a generation that is better equipped to reach its full potential. “We are using sports as an educational and humanitarian tool that will benefit society at large. Our purpose is not generating soccer stars, it’s beyond that. We see great potential for growth in this project.”
In a room overlooking the crowded narrow streets of Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Othman is taking part in a soccer coaching training session while trying to concentrate amidst the noises from the street. As with most Palestinian refugees growing up in Lebanon, Othman had a very tough childhood. Fortunately, soccer provided him a source of happiness and hope amidst his harsh living conditions.
The training is conducted by coaches from Inter Campus, the Corporate Social Responsibility program of Inter Milan, one of the world’s most famous soccer clubs. Othman, along with other young people in the camp, is hoping to learn the necessary skills needed to become a competent coach and, in return, train underprivileged children in his community. He believes soccer is not just a sport, but a way of life and wants to impart this experience onto other children.
In partnership with Anera, assigned trainers from Inter Campus are sent twice a year to Shatila as part of this ongoing training project. The first visit this year was in March followed by another in July. On both visits, the Inter Campus coaches, hand-in-hand with local coaches, conducted sports activities with 80 young boys and girls at the Al Siraj soccer field located inside the camp.
Inter Campus is aiming to build a generation that is better equipped to reach its full potential. “I am very happy and proud at the thought of being able to help these kids and contribute to making their lives better. We are not here to scout them. We are here on a mission to help build their confidence and adopt healthy life-styles,” says David, one of the Inter Campus coaches. “We are using sports as an educational and humanitarian tool that will benefit society at large. Our purpose is not generating soccer stars, it’s beyond that. This is why we see great potential for growth in this project," adds Othman.
On the soccer field, despite the brutal summer heat and the everyday chaos of life in the camp, Shatila’s children are having fun. The young girls on the field play as hard as the boys. “Some of these girls knew nothing about soccer before the coaches’ visit last year. Now they play harder than the boys and have not missed a single game of the World Cup,” according to Othman.
Othman, who is training with Inter Campus, is also a social worker at Ahlam Laje’ – a local NGO inside the camp that coordinates directly with the Inter Campus coaching staff.
“My only wish is to see these kids in a better place. I will do everything I can to make sure that happens,” says Othman.