LONDON: The English Football Association has teamed up with humanitarian charity Syria Relief to deliver thousands of England football kits to Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.
The 3,000 kits were delivered by an FA delegation alongside former Liverpool and Paris Saint Germain footballer Mohamed “Momo” Sissoko, who also took some time to play with the children. Children were also treated to coaching sessions by a number of FA-qualified football coaches.
Syria Relief is the largest Syria-focused charity in the UK and has been working for years to ease the suffering of Syrian refugees within and outside Syria’s borders — with the majority residing in Lebanon.
Poverty is rampant among Syrian refugees in Lebanon. According to the UN, nine out of ten refugees live in poverty — and the bitterly cold winters pose a real threat to their health, particularly for young children.
Syria Relief told Arab News that the visit of a famous footballer raised spirits among the children, many of whom had known nothing but conflict and poverty.
Othman Moqbel, Chief Executive Officer of Syria Relief, said: “Football is a universal language that brings billions together and spreads hope and joy. It has been a huge honor to team up with the FA and Momo Sissoko to donate football kit and equipment to Syrian refugee children living in tents on the Lebanese border with Syria, as well as providing some warm clothes and fun for children living in extreme poverty.”
“This isn’t just giving children high quality clothes, severely needed in the winter months, and fun they’ll never forget,” he said. “It is also helping tackle mental health issues such as trauma. A study we did earlier this year found that 74 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon had symptoms compatible with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Recreational activity and exercise are known to improve mental health.”
Edleen John, the FA’s Director of International Relations, Corporate Affairs and Co-partner for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, said in a statement to Arab News: “We were delighted to partner with Syria Relief to provide this kit and equipment to children who we hope will truly benefit from it and enjoy it.
“While we cannot control the challenging life circumstances for refugees, we do know how much joy football brings to millions of people around the world. We believe that our game is truly for all, so we hope that even the small gift of a shirt can make a difference to how people feel on and off the pitch.”
“We are so thankful for The FA, who have so kindly donated 3,000 items of England kit. Children in the camps love football and most here now have a new favorite national team – England,” he said, noting that the FA also paid for the trip.
Moqbel added: “The joy we see on the faces of children when they get a brand new England kit, donated by The FA, and getting to enjoy a game of football with a legend of the game like Momo Sissoko and FA qualified coaches, is extraordinary.”