Arsenal legends raise money for child refugees

Esra*, 12 years old, has been helped by the Save the Children football programme funded by Arsenal. Esra was forced to flee her home because of violent shelling and has been living in the camp for a year and a half with her family. The culture within the communities at the camps is extremely conservative but the football programme is playing a key role in empowering the girls â building their confidence and encouraging equality amongst all the children. The Arsenal Foundation has funded two football pitches across two camps for internally displaced Iraqis to provide children living there with a safe space to play together and use football as a way to escape their tragic circumstances.
Esra, 12 years old, has been helped by our football programme funded by Arsenal, in Iraq.

by Yara Rodrigues-Fowler

Arsenal legends from Martin Keown to Freddie Ljungberg are helping us to transform the lives of children in Jordan and Somalia.

On Saturday 3 September, they’ll reunite to play a very special Legends Match against Milan Glorie – a legends team from AC Milan.

Money from ticket sales and raised at the match will go to The Arsenal Foundation, which will donate £500,000 to help us build seven football pitches in camps for refugees and those forced to flee their homes.

We’ve been teaming up with Arsenal for 5 years now, using the power of football to give children space to play – and the chance to just be children.

The chance to be children

We’ll be building five pitches in Jordan, where millions of people have fled their homes because of the brutal war in Syria.

Here, many children live in crowded refugee camps like Za’atari, which is home to 80,000 people.

We’ll build another two in Somalia, where more than a million people are living in camps after being forced by fighting in the country. Most of them are women and children.

Whether you’re a kid from North London or war-torn Somalia, knowing that a club like Arsenal is on your side can give you hope, pride and community.

A safe space

These pitches are more than just a space for kids to practice keepie uppies and penalties.

Because as well as training people living in the camps to run football coaching sessions, we’ll also teach them to recognise and support children who are struggling because of their experiences.

They will be a space where children can build relationships and improve their wellbeing.

Children: forgotten victims

Conflict and violence have forced almost 30 million children in countries around the world to flee their homes.

Children are easily forgotten in this crisis. Especially those who are alone – they are most at risk of abuse, violence and trafficking.

Hamsa, 12, stands on the rocky surface where he and his friends play football in the Digaale IDP Camp in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Digaale is a planned settlement for urban poor families who came to Hargeisa following the Somali civil war or who lost their livestock through successive droughts. Children in the camp have no safe places where they can play football on a proper pitch. Says Hamsa, "I like football because itâs my hobby and I have many friends to play with and itâs good exercise for us. But we donât have good place to play footbal, the surface we play on is rough and there are many stones. Our football pitch is rough with many stones, broken glass, and thorns. When we run on the stones we injure our toes Even though we tried to clear off an area where we could play ourselves, if you see our football pitch it is still very rough. Thatâs the only space where the children can play and an even bigger problem is we donât even have good footballs. When we play on this surface we risk hurting our feet on the stones are getting cut on broken glass and getting tetanus If Arsenal builds a football pitch for us, we will be able to play football better and in a more organized way, and weâll be able to interact with other children in a way that we learn from each other. If Arsenal builds a football pitch for us it will really help us and we will all become arsenal fans. We will be able to play in teams and our camp will be home to the biggest Arsenal fans will come from here Iâm an Arsenal fan and my favorite player is Mesut Ozil, who plays midfielder. I really like Ozil because heâs a creative football player and I like the way he plays"
Hamsa, 12 years old, in the Digaale Camp in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

Hamsa’s story

Hamsa, 12, lives in the Digaale Camp in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Digaale is a planned settlement for families who came to Hargeisa following the Somali civil war or who lost their livestock through successive droughts.

Hamsa says, “I like football because it’s my hobby and I have many friends to play with.
Our football pitch is rough with many stones, broken glass, and thorns.

“When we play on this surface we risk hurting our feet on the stones are getting cut on broken glass and getting tetanus.

“I’m an Arsenal fan and my favourite player is Mesut Ozil, who plays midfielder. I really like Ozil because he’s a creative football player and I like the way he plays.”

Transforming lives in Iraq

Together, we’ve already built two football pitches in refugee camps in Iraq.

When Yasmine and her family were forced to flee their home during the current violence, Yasmine thought they’d be gone for two days. So far they’ve been in the camp two years.

“When the football pitch was built it was such a good day. I love going there because it makes me forget everything and I can just be happy playing with my friends”

Yasmine met hero Alex Scott, Arsenal Ladies Captain, who visited the camp in Iraq earlier this year.

It’s what The Arsenal Foundation is about: inspiring young people through the power of football – and the Arsenal name.

What you can do

Together, Save the Children and the Arsenal Foundation are helping to give hope and rebuild childhoods through the power of football and one of sport’s biggest names.

You too can play your part in transforming the lives of children fleeing war and persecution.

Please support our work with child refugees worldwide: 

Donate now 

Some names have been changed to protect identities.

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