Chelsea Foundation

Football spreads smiles for Syrian refugees

Katie Chapman and Chelsea Foundation coaches joined our global charity partner Plan International at a refugee camp in Jordan on Tuesday.

The group received special access to the Azraq Refugee Camp in the desert outside Amman, which homes more than 35,000 Syrian refugees, to deliver unforgettable sessions to groups of boys and girls aged from 10 to 17.

Since the conflict began in Syria, 5.6 million refugees have fled abroad, with more than 600,000 heading to Jordan. Plan International has been working there since 2016, working on key issues faced by the most vulnerable children, especially girls, among refugee and host communities.

Plan’s work focuses on three core areas - early childhood care and development, parenting skills sessions and providing life skills for adolescents.

The people in the camp are skilled and educated and some have become volunteers with Plan International, who can alsoutilisea six-a-side football pitch, providing a safe area for sport and play.

On Tuesday, this pitch might as well have been Stamford Bridge itself to the 200 youngsters who took part in one of the five sessions, taking on a series of challenges and games with Chapman and the Foundation coaches leading the way.

Friends Areeg and Dalal are 12, girls who took part in the final session of the day, which was played out in a carnival atmosphere thanks to traditional Syrian singing and dancing.

‘We go together to school every day and there we are learning English,’ they said. ‘Our favourite part of the day is always to play with friends, and sometimes we play football here at the Plan pitch, which is a lot of fun. Today, the Chelsea coaches have taught us how to play better, so it has been a very good day.’

It is not just those who live in the camp who have benefited from the visit. Foundation coach Steve O’Reilly was visiting Azraq for the first time.

‘We have delivered sessions all over the world in Africa, Asia and America, but I have never seen anything like this,’ he said. ‘It was great for the kids to have some structured football coaching and to have Katie present as an inspiration and a role model is fantastic. You can see how much it means and the impact it can havetothe community.

‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us. To be able to work with the kids and see their smiles, using football, which really is a universal language, is priceless. The work Plan are doing to help here is incredible. It’s an honour for us to be involved.’

We will have more on day two of the visit to Jordan tomorrow…

'Having Chelsea come gives the children a special experience and fantastic coaching, but it also shows them that people from the outside care about them.’

photo of Hossain – a Syrian refugee who volunteers for Plan at the Azraq Refugee Camp Hossain – a Syrian refugee who volunteers for Plan at the Azraq Refugee Camp