THE universal language of football is helping a group of refugees to settle in Suffolk.
Around 40 refugees of various nationalities, who are based at one location in the county, took part in two matches after being supplied with kit and boots.
Suffolk FA, with the aid of local charity Boots2Africa, organised for the kit and boots to be handed over to the refugees.
The refugees are under the care of Cromwood Housing Group whose Head of Contingency Operations Neil James said: “Thanks to Suffolk FA’s connections football kit and boots were sourced from charities and local organisations, which alone made the asylum seekers feel welcomed into the local community and during this launch the level of excitement was amazing.
“It is very unusual for asylum seekers to be welcomed into the community in this magnitude, and we cannot express our thanks enough.
“The asylum seekers when living in hotels are mixed up with languages, nationalities and religious beliefs which does sometimes cause frustration on their behalf, but the game of football removes all boundaries with one collective ‘goal’, the language of football.
“The idea of a kick around gives them something to look forward to in a situation where they have very little else in their life currently and helps them forget about their worries and thoughts of situations, issues and family they have left behind in their home countries, even if it is just for an hour here and there.”
Some of the Refugees in action during one of the matches (above) and a player takes a shot at goal in the main photograph
Suffolk FA Football Development Officer (Growth) Kirsty Smith said: “With everything that it is going on right now in the world, events like this are extremely important.
“Everyone’s journey into Suffolk is different, however all have one passion – football. Despite the obvious language barriers, football really is a universal language and the two events we have done with these guys have been brilliant.
“The love for the game that they have is evident and something that can and does help unite communities and groups together. If we can help by providing those guys with some boots, kit and equipment to play football once a week that is the least we can do. It gives them something to look forward and provides a great way to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.
“Football really is for all and we want to help people integrate within grassroots football. This is hopefully just the first step into developing a structured football provision for them.”
One of the refugees skips past an opponent during one of the matches
Iain Finch of charity Boots2Africa, who donated kit as well as boots, said: “When I was approached by Suffolk FA to see if I could help, I was delighted to get involved.
“The kit came from sources all over the country but locally from both Claydon FC and Stowmarket Town Youth FC.”
Suffolk FA Chair Phil Lawler, who attended the matches, said: “Thank you to all parties involved in making this such a special occasion and helping to integrate the refugees into the local community.”
One of the refugees who attended the session said: “We say thank you. We appreciate what has been organised for us and how friendly everyone has been towards us.”
A group shot of the refugees after receiving their kit and boots along with some of those who made it possible