World Refugee Day: Young refugees meet EURO winner Papadopoulos for UEFA Foundation online chat

Young refugees meet EURO winner Papadopoulos for UEFA Foundation online chat 

A groupe of young refugees from across the world joined Greece's UEFA EURO 2004 champion and former refugee Dimitris Papadopoulos to talk about football and lot more besides - thanks to UEFA Foundation for Children initiative to mark Saturday's World Refugee Day.

The refugees, aged between 12 and 17, represented five partner bodies receiving funding from the UEFA foundation for refugee-related projects. The 26 youngsters joined together for an online video chat, organised by the UEFA Foundation, with Dimitris Papadopoulos – a former refugee and a member of the Greece squad that triumphed at UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal.

The conversation commemorated this year's World Refugee Day on Saturday, in which events throughout the world will raise awareness of the situation of refugees and highlight the challenges that they face.

The young refugees who took part in the chat came from Kicken Ohne Grenzen, Cross Cultures Project Association, FC Barcelona Foundation, Association Football Development Programme and the Lesvos project with FC Cosmos and Aiolikos. They spoke among themselves and with Papadopoulos about their daily lives, their love of football and their dreams for the future.

Speaking from experience…

Dimitris Papadopoulos was born in Uzbekistan and his family returned to Greece when he was nine. He went on to forge a fine career as a striker which saw him crowned Greek Super League Player of the Year on three occasions. In addition to a much-travelled club career, Papadopoulos won 22 caps for Greece between 2002 and 2014.

He relished the opportunity to pass on his own experiences and answer questions from the youngsters about his life and footballing career.

The youngsters’ view...

Jasma, aged 15 - Kicken ohne Grenzen

“I really liked to talk to Dimitris. His story was very inspiring, because we kind of feel the same. Football can help you forget about problems and have a happy life.”

 Francis, aged 16 - FC Cosmos and FC Aiolikos

“We had the opportunity to talk with other refugees from other projects around the world. It was a great experience, and we would like it to happen again. This event gave me fresh hope and courage for my dreams. Thank you so much.”

Ahmed, aged 13 - AFDP Global

“I enjoyed it a lot, because we talked with other refugee kids from all over the world. We understand all of their dreams, and we were very happy to talk with Dimitris.

Godfrey, aged 12 – CCPA

“I was very impressed to meet a lot of youngsters from different countries in my first-ever conference meeting on a computer. I understand the importance of football in somebody’s life…especially when [Dimitris] explained how football changed his life.”

UEFA Foundation for Children and refugees

Football has the power to act as a massive social force, and strives to make an enormous contribution to helping people, young and old, to overcome problems and face the future with greater optimism. UEFA has been addressing the plight of refugees for a number of years, putting different measures in place, and using football as a vehicle for change

Through supporting socio-educational and sports projects in Europe and beyond, the UEFA Foundation for Children seeks to help improve the living conditions of refugee children, as well as their dignity and respect for their fundamental rights.

UEFA Foundation for Children general secretary Urs Kluser

"For young refugees, football gives them the chance to cope with a difficult situation and to realise their full potential. Together, with our partner organisations and with everyone who loves football, the sport has a real opportunity to have a positive impact on these young people and the host communities. It is one of the successful ways to help them to get adjusted to a new life."

The UEFA Foundation for Children currently funds 24 refugee projects - 14 in Europe, five in Asia and five in Africa.

This funding helps the partners undertake refugee activities, using sport and football in particular as a vehicle to improve lives and bring smiles to faces.


“Having been a refugee myself at an early age, I know first-hand the struggle, the agony, the hardships. For me, it was football that changed my life. It gave me purpose to move on, to become a better man.

Talking to the young refugees, I tried to pass the message that even when times are hard, we are responsible for our choices - and we should never give up on our dreams. We can be what we dream of”.

- Dimitris Papadopoulos, former greek player

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Dimitris Papadopoulos

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Mustafa, 13 years old, from Afghanistan leaving in Lesvos

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Refugee kids from Zaatari camp

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Fatima, 13 years old, from Afghanistan, leaving in Athens

UEFA President Čeferin inaugurates pitch at Jordanian refugee camp

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin has helped to officially open a new football pitch at the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, which will give thousands of children the opportunity to play the game they love, with the best facilities possible.

Over 200 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 13 took part in the opening ceremony, and were joined by Mr. Čeferin for a football match on the new playing surface.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to see how something as simple as a football pitch can bring so much joy and happiness. Football has the ability to inspire, unite and also teach children important life skills and values, such as teamwork and respect,” the UEFA president said.

The building of the full-sized artificial pitch was backed by the UEFA Foundation for Children, the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP), the Jordanian Football Association, the Norwegian Football Federation and Lay’s, who are also a sponsor of the UEFA Champions League.

Two containers filled with artificial turf, construction materials, maintenance support equipment (including a tractor), and pitch equipment such as goals and corner flags were sent from the Netherlands. The construction of the pitch took two months and was completed in late May.

During his visit to Za’atari, which houses just over 80,000 refugees, Mr. Čeferin visited the ‘House of Sport,’ which was opened in September 2016 by the UEFA Foundation for Children and the AFDP.

“It is genuinely a humbling experience to be able to interact with children from this camp. Despite the situations they find themselves in, they are able still to smile and enjoy life as much as possible,” said Mr. Čeferin. “I am glad that the work carried out by the UEFA Foundation for Children, the Asian Football Development Project, the Norwegian Football Federation and Lays is giving these children opportunities that they otherwise would not have had.”

The centre has become the hub of sporting life in the camp and allows children to play in a safe environment as well as giving them the chance to engage in sport and football in particular with others.

This is the latest in a long line of projects that the UEFA Foundation for Children has undertaken at the Za’atari Refugee Camp, which is located in the north of Jordan, not far from the southern Syrian border.

Since its creation in April 2015, the UEFA Foundation for Children, alongside the AFDP and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has been looking to help refugees who were displaced by the conflict in Syria and especially children and youngsters who were living in the camp.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, who is the President of the Jordanian Football Association, mentioned, “powerful mediums such as sport and education have the ability to plant seeds of hope and potentiality even under the most difficult circumstances.”

“Thanks to my friend Aleksander Čeferin, my colleagues at the UEFA Foundation for Children and Lay’s for supporting the Asian Football Development Project’s projects at the camp and for providing the refugee boys and girls with a healthy, quality space that they can use not only to train, but also to build friendships and learn skills that are beneficial on and off the pitch,” Prince Ali added.

A total of 4,480 children and youngsters, including 3,185 boys and 1,295 girls aged between 8 and 20, regularly take part in weekly sports activities, which are supervised by qualified male and female coaches.

In order to organise sports activities and football tournaments, it is essential to have local teachers who can keep the project going. This is why the UEFA Foundation for Children has embarked on a training programme to give coaches the necessary skills to supervise and lead football activities. Since July 2017, 250 adult refugees, including 163 men and 87 women, have benefited from the coaching education that has been available.

In order to give the young inhabitants as much stimulation as possible, monthly football tournaments are organized in the camp. In total, 30 girls’ teams (U13, U15 and U20) and 60 boys’ teams (U13, U15 and U24) have been created, with an average of 20 players per team.

The UEFA Foundation for Children and the AFDP have tried to offer as much expertise as possible and have run workshops on refereeing and how to recover from injury. These sessions have proved to be a success, with 54 referees qualifying to officiate in matches, 21 of whom are women.

Furthermore, experts have been enlisted to touch on social fields, such as how sport can be used as a tool for social cohesion, while advice has also been given on early marriages and conflict resolution. Almost 60 percent of the camp’s inhabitants are under the age of 24, while a fifth are under five.


Photographs, a video and an infographic can be downloaded from the following links:

Video –

Photos –

Infograpic – Za’atari infographic


Our partners


Hope through football

“We play football to become better people – not necessarily better footballers.” This is the main motto of the ‘Goal Sti Ftohia’ (Kick Out Poverty) project, which is operating in Greece in the midst of an unprecedented socio-economic crisis. This project brings together the poorest of the poor – people who are experiencing social exclusion at its most extreme. Homeless people, refugees and recovering drug addicts of all ages – men and women alike – get together at least once a week to play football. For these people, playing football is not about winning games; it is about winning back their lives. This is Greece’s national homeless football team.

A photographer has been following the members of that team as they train together and seek to overcome their personal challenges and difficulties. He attempts to capture the players’ transformation as they go from being social pariahs to community leaders. Through football, their self-belief is gradually restored and the rest of society starts to see them in a different light. They are no longer outcasts; they are now regarded as fighters – as role models.

A programme of visits to refugee camps (also supported by the UEFA Foundation for Children) elevates them yet further to the status of community leaders. The team visit refugee centres, kicking a ball around with child refugees, sending out a message of joy and hope. They have all lost their homes, albeit the Syrian refugees have lost their entire country.

The camera follows the team from their weekly training sessions at a football ground in central Athens to the Homeless World Cup in Glasgow in summer 2016. After capturing their triumphs and tribulations in Scotland, it then follows them on to various refugee camps around Greece, watching them share the joys of the beautiful game with child refugees and anyone else who wishes to join in.

This project highlights football’s tremendous power to transform lives – in this case, the lives of homeless people living in extreme poverty. Through their participation in the Greek homeless football team, they are empowered, not just becoming socially active and rebuilding their lives, but establishing themselves as community leaders, leading by example.
This project is run by the NGO Diogenes, which also publishes the Greek street paper ‘Shedia’.

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Fostering inclusion through football


KICKFAIR seeks to bring children together, uniting refugees and non-refugees through their shared love of football. However, the KICKFAIR concept goes far beyond that. Playing the game is just an initial starting point, giving children the chance to share experiences, using football as a common language. By playing together regularly, children build trust, and that forms the basis for deeper relationships. KICKFAIR has developed various different modules, using elements of football to foster mutual understanding both on and off the pitch. Those modules combine regular games of football with workshops where participants answer questions such as “Where am I from?”, “Where do I feel at home?”, “What makes a home?”, “What do we have in common?”, “In what ways are we different?” and “How do we want to collectively shape our future?”

The overall objective is to foster inclusion by tearing down barriers between children that have built up as a result of inaccurate stories, incomplete information and unfounded fears. It is about dealing with diversity and seeing it as a benefit, while ensuring that everyone has equal opportunities to develop – both on a personal and on a professional level.

The main target group is schools, which are in need of complementary inclusive concepts that will help to ensure mutual understanding and equal opportunities for all children.

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Kick For Hope – Karak Football Coaching Course

UEFA Foundation for Children extends its support to communities and schools in Jordan.

With the help of the Jordanian Ministry of Education, the Jordanian Football Association and streetfootballworld, the UEFA Foundation For Children and the Asian Football Development Project have provided training in non-violent communication and negotiation skills to 21 physical education teachers and football coaches, both men and women, in order help them to build positive relationships between students.

Early March, the one-week course involved teachers and coaches from 12 schools in the city of Karak, south of the capital, Amman. It provided them with the knowledge and skills necessary to run regular football activities for children and to use the sport as a platform for building self-esteem and encouraging social cohesion by facilitating interaction among children of different origins.

The course was led by streetfootballworld instructor Hiba Jaafil (former captain of the Lebanon women’s national team and current U17 and U19 coach) and former Jordanian national women’s internationals Maryana Haddad and Zina Al-Sadi still playing in the Jordan national team.

After the course, a tournament was held for 100 children from the 12 schools (50 boys and 50 girls, all aged 10 or 11). Through football, a language understood by all, children of different origins came together, cheered each other on, helped each other to win and built lasting friendships.

The programme will be extended to 24 other schools in the south of Jordan over the course of the year. In various joint activities and special events, children from the different schools will play alongside each other in mixed teams rather than against each other, to encourage mutual understanding and acceptance of cultural differences and break down stereotypes and other barriers.

UEFA Foundation for Children supports Brussels Play 4 Peace initiative using sport as an instrument for peace

A UEFA Foundation for Children photo exhibition highlighting the lives of children at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan was staged in Brussels on Sunday 10 April to help mark the UN International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

The exhibition, showing how football can play a key role in giving meaning to the refugee children’s everyday lives, was part of a sports event organised by the Brussels Play 4 Peace (BP4P) organisation and held at the Stade Roi Baudouin in the Belgian capital.

Almost 4,500 children and young adults – boys and girls aged between 8 and 20 – are involved in sport, and football in particular, at the Zaatari camp. The UEFA Foundation supplied cameras to enable the children to be creative and portray life at the camp through a lens, thereby contributing to the exhibition and promoting it beyond the borders of the camp.

Alongside the exhibition, more than 20 different sports activities were offered to visitors, and proceeds from the day are earmarked for the purchase of sports equipment for homes and hospitals for children and young people.

A minute’s silence was held in memory of the victims of the recent attacks in Brussels, and balloons in Belgium’s colours of black, yellow and red were released into the air.

BP4P promotes the playing of sport and adherence to sport’s values as an educational tool for young people, and nurtures the belief that sport is a crucial vehicle for social stability and dialogue between different political, cultural and religious communities.

The UEFA Foundation for Children reflects UEFA’s wish to play a more active role in society, and makes use of sport to support humanitarian projects linked to children’s rights in areas such as health, education and integration.

The foundation’s objective is also to help children and safeguard their rights, as well as to promote access to sporting activity, facilitating children’s personal development and fostering the integration of minorities.

UEFA Foundation for Children supports Spirit of Soccer in Iraq

Football programme launched to educate children about the danger of landmines

The UEFA Foundation for Children is supporting the Spirit of Soccer project in Iraq, using a programme that emphasises the power of football to educate children about the dangers of landmines and explosive remnants of war. The project includes mine risk education, raising awareness of the danger and promoting behavioural changes.

The humanitarian consequences of violence in Iraq and Syria have been catastrophic. More than 2.2 million Iraqis – half of whom are children under the age of 18 – have been displaced, and are forced to live in camps without any formal education or social structures. One day, they will return home to regions polluted by the legacy of conflict, where landmines, unexploded weapons and ammunition, and improvised explosive devices will be a constant and deadly threat.

The funding provided by the UEFA Foundation for Children will support the training of 150 new football coaches, who will be taught how to deliver mine risk education to over 25,000 Iraqi, Kurdish and Syrian children in 2016.

“Some of these children have experienced violence and trauma, often on a daily basis,” said Spirit of Soccer founder and CEO Scott Lee. “Football can do so much; whether it is giving them skills that could help them survive the war, or just giving them a reason to smile. When you play football, you live in the moment. If we can provide these children with a moment of peace, this will truly be a precious gift.”

José Manuel Durão Barroso, chairman of the UEFA Foundation for Children’s board of trustees, said: “The UEFA Foundation for Children places the well-being of children at the heart of its activities, especially vulnerable children who are suffering as a result of conflict. Given the dangers posed by landmines and other legacies of such conflict, it is absolutely crucial that young people are made fully aware. We applaud and fully support the Spirit of Soccer project on this vital education initiative, and we are very happy that football is once again being deployed as a source of happiness and hope.”

Note to editors:

Spirit of Soccer is an international non-profit organisation that uses the world’s most popular sport to empower and educate young people about the dangers of landmines and unexploded weapons in areas of past or ongoing conflict:

Children’s lives at the Za’atari camp

Nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees – 57 percent of whom are children – live at the Za’atari camp, which is located in the Jordanian desert. The UEFA Foundation for Children, in collaboration with UNHCR and the Asian Football Development Project, is helping children and young people through sports activities, in particular football, to allow them to play and remain children in a situation of war.

This exhibition draws a parallel between three different aspects of children’s lives at the Za’atari camp.

Children at the camp have had the opportunity to show, through their eyes, how life goes on despite the particular context in which they are living. In partnership with a local NGO, these youngsters have benefited from training as photographers, and the UEFA foundation provided cameras to allow them to realise their own exhibition and promote it beyond the borders of the Za’atari camp. The aspiring photographers were very motivated to take part in this project. Using professional cameras was a massive experience for them.

Pascale Cholette, a French photographer who works for the Metasud and Future Learning agencies, felt the great contrast between her freedom and the refugees, who are captive behind fences. Captive herself as a result of her European vision and Western culture, she decided to use the lights of the desert to isolate the youngsters from reality, and to just simply focus on what they are – children.

Rawan Risheq, the Jordanian photographer, had a fascinating experience. She was granted access into mosques and homes, and visits to youth centres and playgrounds enabled her to understand how a refugee’s life is organised, and how the Syrians have adjusted after years in the camp. Many children were happy to be photographed. However, some would barely smile – they seemed like grown adults in children’s bodies. Rawan came across a great deal of talent and so many powerful expressions which held stories of survival within them.

A treasure hunt at Zaatari

Many activities were organised at the Za’atari refugee camp to celebrate the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on 6 April.

The UEFA Foundation for Children did its bit to mark this important day by organising a treasure hunt for ten teams of children living in the 12th district of the camp. The aim of the game was to find footballs hidden all over the camp by answering questions on topics of general culture and about life in the camp, but also about football and its values, such as fair play, team spirit, friendship, honesty and responsibility.