Afghanistan Now
June 19, 2020

                                                        CELEBRATING AFGHANISTAN’S TALENTED REFUGEES

To celebrate World Refugee Day this Saturday (20 June), Goal Click and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, have launched a new photographic and text series, “Goal Click Refugees”. This amazing collaboration with refugees and asylum seekers around the world to document their personal stories and experiences through football.

This includes hearing the incredible stories of refugees from Afghanistan. They spoke with pride about how football is helping them become stronger and more united with their communities.  UNHCR and partners try to promote participation in sport as a means of improving self-worth and confidence. This can then help them recover from past traumas and also find the self-confidence to begin an apprenticeship or start a new job.   These inspirational individuals shared the stories of what life is like and how football has made them stronger.

Khadijah coaching her team

One such case is Khadijah, a brave young woman who spoke about the way football has changed her life:   “Through football and my new friends, I’ve been able to find myself again. When I say that, people may think that it’s an easy thing to say. But in my case, it was different. I didn’t know the language; I didn't know anyone. It’s as if you are being born as a baby again. I think you can only understand it if you’ve experienced it yourself.”

Many of the stories offer hope, showing how football can help refugees and asylum-seekers to find their feet again and rebuild their lives in a new society after the trauma and confusion of flight.  Goal Click gave each participant a disposable analogue camera to capture the realities of their football lives and communities.   Intimate photos and unfiltered stories, offering a platform to unheard voices and highlighting the experiences of refugees through the common language of football.  

Founder of Goal Click Matthew Barrett said:   Whilst many stories appear in the media about refugees, it is rare to actually hear their voices or see their perspective. This series aims to challenge existing stereotypes and give an intimate look into refugees’ football lives, in a way that no one from outside these communities could do. Now, more than ever, the voices of the marginalised need to be heard.”

Dominique Hyde, global head of External Relations at UNHCR said:  “For young men and women uprooted by war or persecution, sport is much more than a leisure activity. It’s an opportunity to be included and protected – a chance to heal, develop and grow.”

Shegofa Hassani, 21, is a refugee from Afghanistan. Her passion for football started as a child when she played with her brothers. Her passion for football started as a child when she played with her brothers. However, she hesitated to pursue it further because of cultural barriers and her family. After years of giving up hope of playing football, she finally got the opportunity to play. She said:

"I feel like my truest self when I am on the football pitch. It is where I feel most empowered and most connected with people around me. And recently it has given me the opportunity to reconnect with my Afghan community and my culture through the team. It is important for my community because a lot of people still don’t think Afghan girls should play sport, and this allows us an opportunity to prove them wrong and stay active and socially connected. Even though we are an Afghan team, everyone is welcome to train with us.”

Shegofa Hassani in her favourite Spanish football team (FC Barcelona)

Some of the issues facing female refugees can be especially challenging. An ordinary task like collecting water or going to the toilet can put them at risk of abuse. In times of displacement, women become more vulnerable, especially those who are unaccompanied, pregnant, heads of households, disabled or elderly.  That is why supporting them and hearing their stories is so important.

Goal Click Refugees will be a year-long campaign, building towards a physical exhibition during the UEFA European Football Championship in 2021; more than 60 refugee stories in 20 countries are expected to be published during that time, straddling the period before and after COVID-19 lockdowns.

Goal Click (@goalclick) is a global football storytelling and photography project, helping people understand the world and one another through football. Goal Click finds inspirational people from around the world to tell stories about their football lives and communities - using disposable cameras and their own words. A new global series, "Goal Click Refugees", was launched ahead of World Refugee Day in partnership with UNHCR.

The photos and stories can be viewed as an online exhibition on www.unhcr.org/goalclick

Twitter: @Refugees  @Goal_Click

Instagram: @refugees @Goalclick