Sport has the power to unite, proved refugees’ soccer match

White and green jerseys flooded Bratislava’s Primate’s Square on 20th June. Two teams came to fight each other on occasion of the World Refugees‘ Day right in front of the Primate’s Palace. The Institute for Intercultural Dialogue paid tribute to more than one thing here: soccer, tolerance, fair play principle and mutual respect. It was a good day to talk about challenging situation that refugees find themselves in after being denied the opportunity to live a dignified life in their own country and at the same time, to describe the steps they need to take in order to create fundamental conditions for their new lives.

Stories which ought to be heard

Not many people can picture themselves fleeing their homes, leaving their friends and family behind and starting over again somewhere else. A team called „World Nominees“ came to fight a multicultural team titled Different Colours United formed by refugees, all of whom carry a story of their own.

„One of the key goals of the World Refugees‘ Day is to increase awareness about them; a lot of people out there do not realise who these people are and why they left for another country,“ explains Nancy Polutan, who came to support the event on behalf of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

It is vital to share their stories and experience, since refuges encapsulate many men, women, children and entire families. And it is up to us to highlight their stories and emphasize what a turning point their fleeing their homeland was and what a struggle it is to build a new life and create social webs in a country of their asylum. I believe this is also a good way to connect people with various backgrounds and see how they cope with a new culture despite all the problems that refugees have to face.

Openness and respect

The aim of the Sport has the power to unite project (apart from tournaments, it also contains many discussion and workshops) is to bring about change. In society, in ourselves, in the atmosphere that we create for people who need our assistance. To establish a dignified life in a new country, one does not need much more than openness and respect, which is something that we all need, anyway. „I believe that the sense of integration and security comes with knowing that you have a home, some place to live in, children who go to school, a happy family, good command of language, while still keeping your own cultural identity in this new society. I think that is when refugees really feel like at home, again“ said Nancy Polutan.

You Are Welcome Among Us event forms part of Sports Unite project funded by the Programme for NGO Support – Democracy and Human rights, which helps to implement EEA 2009-2014 Financial Mechanism. This way, donor countries – Iceland, Lichtenstein and Kingdom of Norway help to alleviate economic and social discrepancies in European Economic Area.

photo: Tomáš Halász

Written by: Zuzana Neupauer and Michaela Kučová

Author: Michaela Kučová 16.07.2014