Refo (33 from Asturias, Spain) on the benefits of the children living at City Plaza being part of a football team:
Why did you come to City Plaza?
A friend told me about City Plaza. I didn’t know a lot about how things work here before I arrived. I just knew that it was a place where I could live and work with refugees to help with day to day life. It was by chance that I heard about this place, destiny I suppose.
How does the football team at City Plaza play?
So there’s a sort of championship set up here in Athens for refugee children. Teams from different squats and housing spaces play against each other.
It started when a Spanish girl donated a lot of football kits. So now they have t-shirts and their own uniforms. Volunteers from all over Athens get involved too, we all play together, against each other and do football training too.
In Athens, where the conditions are generally much better than in the camps, the children are able to be motivated to play sports and really profit from football games. With enough food and sleep it means they can be active.
Do you face any challenges running the football outings?
Sometimes the kids fight between themselves. The teams are always made up of children from different countries. They have different cultures, they speak different languages. This can create tension and fights.
But football helps these problems. Being in a team together means that slowly they start to understand that they can play alongside each other and even become friends.
What do you enjoy about organising the football outings with the children?
One thing which is always great to see is when the children are lined up. Either at City Plaza before we leave, ready to go. Or when we arrive and we’re doing the training. Often the children here are out of control, they don’t have stability in their life. But when we’re on the pitch and they’re passing the ball to each other, this is when they find a space to have structure and practice control.
What has been a favourite moment for you so far?
(Smiles) I love when the children ask me or the other guys who organise the football outings ‘when are we playing football?’, ‘when’s the match?’. We see their motivation to play. When they play football they forget the bad things. It’s a time when they can forget their problems.
Why is it important for the children here to do sports?
Children need ways to release their energy in a positive way.
Being part of a team is good for anybody but especially for the children living here. The football matches are a way to cut racism and help the children to see that we are all equal.
3 words to describe City Plaza:
Safety, organised, different
Why is it important that City Plaza stays open?
It’s important that City Plaza stays open because all the time new families arrive at the door here, they need a place to stay. Where would they go if City Plaza closed? Back to the camps. If they have an opportunity to live without being under the control of the army, it’s better for their minds.
Here people have the freedom to express themselves. In the camps people can’t ever make suggestions. For example in the camp it’s not possible for anyone to say ‘the children need more food’. But here everyone is able to make suggestions about how we can improve the conditions of day to day life. Everyone has freedom and is equal. It’s very important that places like this exist.
City Plaza is not supported by NGOs, it relies entirely on solidarity and donations from around the world.
However small or big your donation, every little will help. Everyone at City Plaza thanks you for your kindness and support in helping us to continue to live and work together in our home, to continue to live here in peace, togetherness and solidarity.
Donate here: http://www.youcaring.com/keepcityplazaopen