September 23, 2019
Latest News

Soccer and language lessons help young refugees integrate in Belgium

By Laura Zornoza

Brussels, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- On a soccer field on the outskirts of Brussels, a group of youths are kicking around a ball under the watchful eye of their coach.

Some have only been in Belgium a few weeks, and while they don’t speak French or Dutch yet, they all know the language of football.

They’re aware of the high-profile nature of their training sessions - standing in front of one of their goal posts are the secretary general of UEFA and Belgium’s migration minister - who are there to celebrate the arrival of the 2000th refugee to their club, Kraainem FC.

The club has welcomed refugees since 2015, when a project launched to help integrate unaccompanied minors through football.

The initiative was set up at the height of the migrant crisis amid criticism of a lack of European action over migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.

Four years and 2,000 minors later, the club’s director and driving force behind the project, Laurent Thiele, said helping these youths with their first moments in Belgium was the main idea.

“My wife wanted to host an entire Syrian family at home,” Thiele told Efe. “I told her we couldn’t do that but we’d do something even more important.”

Three times a week, a minibus stops by three refugee reception centers to take groups of minors to the club’s sports facilities.

Most of them are from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea, Thiele said.

Before making it onto the pitch though, the young athletes have to go to class.

In a room built especially for the project, they take classes in French, Dutch or English, taught by volunteer teachers.

Their new language skills give the minors the tools they need in order to learn about life in Belgium, as well as its customs and history.

The project carries on throughout the school holidays, when external organizations come in to teach computer science, professional training skills and civic education.

“Afterwards, the groups mix with our soccer teams and they all train together. It’s a way of integrating them within our teams for an hour and a half,” said Thiele. "And then they have a snack in the cafeteria."

This week, a 16-year-old Senegalese boy who recently arrived in the country became the 2,000th refugee to have taken part.

Some have stayed affiliated to the club and participated in weekend tournaments.

The club, which has 350 regular members from 45 nationalities, receives support from the European Commission through the Erasmus Plus program, the UEFA Foundation and several private entities in Belgium to cover its costs, some 100,000 euros ($110,725) a year.

UEFA’s secretary general, Theodore Theodoridis, told Efe the body was “very happy” with the impact of the initiative. "What we also like about this is that there is an additional emphasis given on the academic side.

"We are looking at the social impact, that's our role,” he said. “If somebody develops to become Eden Hazard or Kevin de Bruyne, even better."

In the cafeteria after training, two youths were talking excitedly in English. Alli and Maan arrived in Belgium from Somalia three and four weeks ago, respectively. They admire Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens, two attackers on Belgium’s national team.

Though they would like to embark on professional careers, for now what they like most about being in Belgium is having “everything” at their disposal, such as a home and access to education.

In Somalia, they were living through a war that has been trundling on for decades.

Thiele is confident the project will keep running. “We can’t stop. Everyday 10 young refugees arrive in Brussels, what do we do with them? Do we leave them in the reception centers?”

Soccer, he believes, eases their integration into Belgium, whose national team has a dozen players who have at least one parent who was born outside the country.

“Soccer is a universal language.” EFE-EPA

lzu/sh

News history
Marquez earns doubly valuable victory in San Marino

By Juan Antonio Llados

Spain claims gold at Basketball World Cup after thrashing Argentina

Beijing, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- Spain basketball men's national team won Sunday its second FIBA World Cup crown after overcoming Argentina 95-75 in the final...

Maradona makes stumbling debut as Gimnasia coach

Buenos Aires, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- Diego Maradona had a bitter first outing as the new coach for Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, falling to Racing Club 2-1...

Marquez tops Quartararo in thrilling end to San Marino MotoGP

Misano Adriatico, Italy, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- Spaniard Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda RC 213 V) on Sunday prevailed over Frenchman Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha YZR M...

Bodybuilding gains ground in Gaza

Palestinian bodybuilders were competing in a fitness championship in Gaza City on Sunday. Over 70 gyms have been set up in Gaza in just over a decade as...

France grabs basketball World Cup bronze from Australia

Beijing, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- The national men's basketball team of France earned Sunday the bronze medal in the FIBA World Cup held in China at the expense...

Suzuki earns his maiden Moto3 victory at San Marino

Misano Adriatico, Italy, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- Japanese rider Tatsuki Suzuki (Honda) on Sunday earned his maiden victory at Misano's World Circuit Marco...

Real Sociedad downs Atletico 2-0 in new stadium, Barca routs Valencia 5-2

San Sebastian, Spain, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- The fiesta celebrating Real Sociedad's new stadium - formerly Anoeta, now Reale Arena - was complete as the home...

Man City stunned by Norwich, fall 5 points behind league-leading Liverpool

Norwich, England, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- Two-time defending champion Manchester City find themselves five points behind league-leading Liverpool after stumbling...

Close battle expected between surprise FIBA World Cup finalists

Beijing, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- Argentina and Spain will face off on Sunday at Beijing's Wukesong Sport Arena for the FIBA Basketball World Cup title, a clash...

Gimnasia y Esgrima ready for Maradona's much-anticipated debut

By Sebastian Meresman

Viñales snatches pole position from Espargaro for San Marino MotoGP

Misano Adriatico, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- Spanish rider Maverick Viñales of Yamaha snatched pole position from his compatriot Pol Espargaro of KTM ahead of the...

Benzema leads Madrid to 3-2 win over Levante

Madrid, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid on Saturday prevailed over Levante 3-2 and earned its first home-league win of the season on the strength of a brace...

Quartararo sets the pace in 3rd practice session ahead of San Marino MotoGP

Misano Adriatico, Italy, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- France's Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha YZR M 1) on Saturday topped his Spanish teammate Maverick Viñales in the third...

Australia seeks to bag historic bronze against powerful France

Beijing, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- The national men's basketball teams of Australia and France are set to put up a tenacious fight over the weekend as the two...

France out, Argentina to play Spain in Basketball World Cup final

Beijing, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- Argentina booked a place in the Basketball World Cup final in China on Friday after defeating France 80-66.

Inspired Areola hopes for a great season with Real Madrid

Madrid, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- France goalkeeper Alphonse Areola was thrilled during his presentation as a Real Madrid player on Friday for getting to wear the...

Soccer and language lessons help young refugees integrate in Belgium

By Laura Zornoza

Kobe Bryant: Days of US Dream Team are over

Beijing, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- Kobe Bryant said that the days of America's 1992 Barcelona Olympics "Dream Team" are over, at a Basketball World Cup press...

Spain reaches basketball world cup final after win over Australia

Beijing, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- Spain beat Australia and went through to the Basketball World Cup final in China after a double overtime Friday.

Mourinho: "Messi made me a better coach"

By Luis Villarejo

Zinedine Zidane says Eden Hazard is ready for Real Madrid debut

Madrid, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane said Friday that Belgium forward Eden Hazard is prepared to debut with the Spanish club...

Alonso teams up with Coma in Lichtenburg 400

Madrid, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- Spanish two-time Formula 1 World Champion, Fernando Alonso, will pair up with five-time Dakar Rally winner in the motorbike...

Tokyo Olympics organizers test artificial snow machines to beat the heat

Tokyo, Sep 13 (efe-epa).- The organizing committee of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games used artificial snow machines on Friday to test their...

I agree Welcome to news4europe.eu. We use cookies to improve your online experience. Find out more.