A group of African immigrants in Spain may not have found Europe’s ‘greener pasture’ yet, but they’ve certainly encountered something that is changing their lives for good. And that is Alma de Africa – the first football club comprised mostly of African immigrants.
The club, whose name translates to ‘Soul of Africa’, is based in the Spanish city of Jerez. Made up of illegal immigrants from Senegal, Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and other African countries, the club plays in the third division of a regional football league.
Most of the players have been in Europe for as long as six years, enduring unemployment, hunger and the constant fear of being caught and deported. By bringing the immigrants together during training sessions and matches, the club is helping them forget the difficulties they’re facing while gradually integrating them into Spanish society.
President of the club, Alejandro Benitez Escobar, told El Pais that they “try to help the immigrants find work and deal with the administration, but it is very difficult.”
With the club’s coach, Escobar meets with local NGOs and lawyers to discuss the possibility of getting the players documented. Aside from the difficulties in getting the players’ papers, the club also faces financial difficulties. For now, Alma de Africa can only afford to pay each team member €5 for playing and training.
Speaking with CGTN Africa about the club, Escobar said:
“We want this to be a positive project within the tragedy of immigration and refugees – that all the nationalities of Africa and more come together with one common purpose and one common language which is the universal language of football.”
In 2016, Alma de Africa was awarded the city of Jerez’s Equality and Integration Prize. You can follow the club on Instagram.