Tolo News – Refugees Come Together For Football Tournament in Brussels

Among the players taking part in the “Everyone on the Pitch” tournament are Afghan, Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Brussel Capital Region – Belgium, 03 September 2018. Refugees from countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq have gathered to play together at the “Everyone on the Pitch” football tournament in Brussels.

The event is a Belgian project to foster the integration of people fleeing war-torn countries and help them make new friends through a shared passion for sport.

But on this Brussels pitch, organisers are hoping it will provide more than just good exercise.

This is the “Everyone on the Pitch” football tournament and it brings together people from across the world.

Refugees and asylum seekers from Asia, the Middle East and Africa are facing each other on the field, under the watchful eyes of Belgian referees.

Most are young men in their 20s and come from troubled countries like Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and Afghanistan.

The goal is to offer a response to the refugee crisis in Europe and to the isolation that many newcomers feel after migrating to Europe.

Mohammad Yousfan is a 30-year-old Syrian refugee from Aleppo, he arrived here six years ago and regularly plays soccer in Belgium. He now lives in Ghent, a city an hour away.

“We train twice a week and we do a combination of fitness training and friendly matches,” he says.

“We wanted to give our contribution to this tournament and add to the nice environment. This is also a chance to go out a bit and connect with Belgian people in the tournament.”

The event is backed by Belgian asylum centres, football clubs and associations such as Fedasil (the Belgian Federal Agency for the reception of asylum seekers) and Brussels Football.

Hedeli Sassi is one of the organisers. He’s a former football player and coach from northern Belgium.

“The tournament is one of the possibilities in this project to show to the people that football is bringing people together, that football helps to understand the rules, to have respect for each other, respect for the other teams, for the referee,” he says.

“But (the) most important thing is to give a signal that football is for everyone, it doesn’t matter from where you are or which colour you have, if you’re male or female. There’s a place for everyone on the field.”

Football has a universal power to unite people from far-flung continents and break social, language and cultural barriers.

But 25-year-old Afghan refugee Mohammad Ali Muzafari is already handling the language barrier. He was all alone when he arrived in Belgium, but learning French has helped him socalise and build a new home.

Belgium has already hosted other events of this type this year. The largest was a football tournament for refugees and asylum seekers that took place in the city of Antwerp on World Refugee Day (20 June).

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