Football is life

Footbal is life for a young refugee
Thursday, February 8, 2024

By Zlatko Pandur, Project Officer within the Response to Refugee and Migrant Crisis

24-year-old Yuse* has been without a home for almost a decade. Originally from Morocco, he left his homeland at the age of 17 to follow his football dreams. Football is one of the most popular sports in Morocco and Yuse first started playing in the streets of his home town, competing against teams from other neighborhoods.

"I will always remember the moment when I scored my first goal. It happened in the neighborhood game, but I received a lot of applause and support”, says Yuse.

This self-confidence boost and joy lasted until Yuse got home, for there was little space for dreams in his family. Living on a single modest income, his six-members-family focused on mere day-to-day survival. They, however, made peace with Yuse’s dreams and the father of the family allowed the boy to begin professional training. He trained in multiple low tier clubs, but failed to score a contract.

football in snowIn 2016, after constant disappointments, Yuse decides to leave Morocco and fight for his dreams elsewhere. He embarked on the journey of a migrant at the age of 17. The boy first traveled to Turkiye, planning to reach European Union from there. Yuse hoped to make his football dreams come true somewhere on the European continent.

Underaged and without transferable skills, it takes a lot of hard physical labor and many years for the boy to come to the edge of the European Union. Turkiye, Greece, Albania, Montenegro - five countries and eight years later, Yuse is at a reception center near Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

young refugee in sarajevo bosniaReception center here offers more than accommodation and food. Organisations and agencies operating in the camp work understanding of the harrowing journeys that preceded arrival in the camp. World Vision BiH staff is attuned to the fact that camp is a crossroad of broken dreams. But they also believe in human resilience and work to mend these cracks and bring about new hope. Psycho-social support is woven within all of the services World Vision provides and this includes sports, language learning, informatics and art activities. Yuse attend them all.

World Vision staff quickly saw Jousef’s talent and were happy to connect the boy with the local football club "Igman". He attends trainings for months and the club management expresses interest in contracting him professionally. However, the lack of legal framework for the migrant population and their activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not allow for this engagement.

Yuse learns the meaning of fleeting hope, once again. But there is one more legal step he can take. He files for the asylum in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The asylum rejection letter hits him hard. He stops communicating and becomes aloof. The staff in the camp observes and supports to the best of their ability. provided with constant psychological support, both from the WV teams and from other agencies involved in the problem.

The project aimed at building social cohesion comes just at the right time to help.

With the support of the regional project of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) “Social participation of people on the move and local population in host regions of the Western Balkans”  World Vision kick starts cooperation with the football club Igman. This cooperation will allow people on the move to train together with the local players.

Along with two other users, Yuse is again invited to training sessions and attends them with renewed enthusiasm. 

The young refugee with fottbal playersYuse is enthusiastic about his new opportunity and is happy to once again meet with the football club Igman team and trainers. They agree on the timeslots for the trainings and all of the visitors receive jerseys, shorts, and trainers.

"After the years spent in this wonderful country, maturing here with wonderful people, I would like to stay there. My hidden and deepest wish is to play for football club Sarajevo”, says Yuse.

* Names are changed for identity protection.