Australia. FIFA unites for peace at WWC
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Kicking goals for peace: FIFA unites with refugees

During the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ event in Australia, FIFA joined forces with UNHCR to promote a message of peace and unity. As part of the initiative, a group of young refugee footballers was invited to experience the thrill of the tournament.

Excitement levels were running high as the bus carrying a group of young Afghan refugees pulled up to the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ (WWC).

“It’s the first time I've ever been to a professional game,” said Maisim, aged 13.

FIFA invited the group of eight young people, aged 12 – 16 years, to watch the Colombia-Jamaica match in Melbourne – the city they now call home.

Generous sponsors surprised them with new tracksuits, which they proudly wore throughout the match.

The young athletes are members of the Hope Australia Soccer Academy (HASA), a unique not-for-profit sports program in Melbourne run by former professional footballers from Brazil. It focuses on developing both football and life skills through mentoring. Many of its members are refugees from countries including Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

“I was thrilled for the students to experience such an event that they would never be able to think or hope of attending in their homeland,” said Andrew Farmer, HASA coach and board member. “If we can bring students into new cultural experiences and meet new friends like this, we can help them grow and achieve.”

Australia. HASA refugee football players
© Supplied
Young refugee footballers at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium ahead of a Women’s World Cup match.

Unite for peace

The event was part of FIFA’s Football Unites the World initiative, which shone a spotlight on important causes during the tournament. During the Round of 16, FIFA and UNHCR encouraged fans to 'Unite for Peace' to support refugees and asylum seekers forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution.

“Football is the world’s most popular sport, with players coming from every corner of the globe, including many refugees,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “For displaced people, football can be a game-changer to help overcome the many challenges they face. Crucially, it fosters inclusion in the communities where they have found safety.”

Experience of a lifetime

The HASA players were thrilled by the electric atmosphere created by the Colombian and Jamaican supporters at the match. 

Halil, aged 14, was excited to see the goal scored by Colombia. “The food, the lights and how everyone got their phones out and turned on their flashlight” were also a highlight, he said.

The experience has given the young players’ football ambitions a boost.

“I’m inspired to play professional soccer in the future,” said Nabi, 13. 

“I’m very inspired too as I want play in the World Cup one day,” added Jamil, 13.

“I’ve never been at a Women’s World Cup before, so I was very impressed. Girls need to support each other,” said Farida, 15.

And the group was unanimous about their favourite Australian player: “Sam Kerr!”

Andrew Farmer reflected on the night: “The evening was summed up by the wonderful smiles on the faces of the students when receiving the gifts, and their tremendous excitement to share photos with their friends on social media. Thank you to FIFA and UNHCR for the opportunity to take our students to a WWC match.”

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