Photos: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision
During the current school holidays, there are two football sessions for children at the World Vision football pitches at Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. One in the morning and one in the evening. There is a break in the middle of the day as it is very hot.
30-year old Akram from Homs in Syria coaches the boys’ teams and the older youth team. He has been in Jordan for 2.5 years.
I used to play for a famous football team in Syria called Al-Karamah. We got to the semi-finals in the Asian Champions League in 2006.
I was once a kid and I had football coaches and they were my idols. I know that with the experience that I had, I can be a good example to these boys. The best thing about being a coach is putting a smile on the faces of the children. This generation has been deprived of so many things, it’s a bit of restitution for them, to give them hope.
The boys release their energy when they play football that could otherwise lead to aggression. It helps them release the extra energy that they have. If they didn’t have this space to play, they would play in the sand or think about stealing – instead they are occupied with football. When some boys first started playing football there was some aggression and we would ask them to leave the pitch for five minutes to calm down. We’ve seen a positive change, there has been development.
When new boys start playing football they need some time to adapt. The longer kids play football, the less aggression I see on the field.
It’s a beautiful thing that there are Syrian refugees in the Olympics. It’s good that people still have the determination to compete. When they eventually go back to Syria, the athletes will take those achievements back to Syria with them.