The Refugee world cup: Not much attention is given to the asylum seekers’ world cup as it is normally done for the actual World Cup but it is absolutely worth it to know the winners. Brazil was the host country for the final of the fourth Refugees World Cup last weekend at the São Paulo’s Pacaembú Stadium.
The less popular world cup is usually organized by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in partnership with the non-governmental organizations África do Coração, Cáritas São Paulo and SESC-SP. The goal of the Refugee World Cup is to help the refugees to integrate into their new country.
The tournament is held annually and this year 16 teams took part. It kicked off on the 16th of September and was played on three days over a nine-day period at three locations. It brought together about 250 players recruited from among Brazil’s refugee community.
Two hundred and fifty players were easy to find considering Brazil hosts more than 9,500 refugees from 82 countries. The players that were picked then played in the national colors of their home countries.
Brazil is a country of football lovers and the tournament certainly helps a lot of the refugees who settle there. One instance of its impact is Virgilio Alfredo, captain of the Democratic Republic of Congo refugee team who admitted that it was difficult for him when he first came to Brazil. He had played the sport professionally before arriving in São Paulo and with it, he saw another chance to rebuild in Brazil. In his words;
“When I came to Brazil I knew it would be difficult, but I also knew we had something in common…I love Brazil because I love football,”
The team representing Nigeria defeated Morocco 9-4 to take the Refugee World Cup title for the second time but the Refugee World Cup truly is about integrating and as much as there is a winner we really cannot say that anyone is a loser.
Brazil opened up its doors to refugees from all countries and those refugees are eagerly displaying their willingness to integrate. On the first day of the competition, for instance, the Togolese team lined up to receive their uniforms holding their country’s flag high above their heads as they danced to rhythms blasting from a portable speaker.
Soon enough other players joined in, some of them proudly donning the host country’s colors of yellow and green. Watching the show of solidarity and hope, one can only wish the refugees all the best in their new country.