One part of the six-week field work that has just come to an end was spent in the Al-Zaatari refugee camp. Right now about 80.000 people live here, most of them Syrians. Apart from IT workshops (see report from October 26) and a diversified childrens’ program, we were again able to offer sports activities this fall. Contrary to handball (see report from June), floorball is almost unknown in the Middle East and so it was a special experience to make the game accessible to young people who were both eager to be physically active and to learn. College student Anne (23) from Switzerland reports.
Upon arrival we were happy to find that the equipment we had left behind after a first day-long floorball training in December was still complete. And it made us even happier to see that the sticks, balls and goalie gear looked used! Hoping that a kind of floorball club will emerge in the Zaatari camp, we spent the entire first day training some adults who were supposed to take on the role of future coaches. They were to continue practices after we had left. On both of the following days, about 120 people came to practice: 60 boys in the mornings, 60 girls in the afternoons (for cultural reasons, sports are played separated by gender; furthermore the field is screened off by a fence).
After having explained the basics of the game, we took the boys through some drills – and then we played. The newly-minted coaches supported us enthusiastically, so that after a very short time a relatively good game had evolved, despite the rather unsuitable sand-and-gravel surface. We were thrilled how quickly these children and teenagers were able to apply what they had learned. With the girls, everything was a little chaotic at first – but there was a lot of laughter and even singing. Some girls also showed astonishing talent and grasped the game’s concept exceptionally fast. All in all it was simply heart-warming to watch the participants wanting to be close to the adults and enjoying our attention.
The last day was the week’s culmination: the tournament. After all five teams had played against one another, there was a semi-final and lastly the final. It was a cheerful atmosphere. The other teams’ members chanted the name of the respective coach during the entire match, thus supporting the teams.
It was lovely to see the men who we had trained as coaches proudly lead their teams. During our field work, we had met so many men who had lost everything, who are neither able to work nor support their families and who have given up hope altogether. And even if it might seem insignificant, we still were under the impression that these men were standing a little taller again and literally blossomed with their newly-found task.
We are more than hopeful that the game will go on: given the two new sets of equipment we could leave with them and all the motivated coaches and players, nothing will stand in the way of a new heyday of floorball in the Middle East! And maybe one day people will say: «It all started in the Zaatari camp…» 😉
Finally, a few words about a small incidence that I personally remember as one of all those highlights: on the third day after the program had come to an end our team, employees of the refugee camp and the local coaches spontaneously started playing a cheerful floorball match. Women and men, Syrians, Jordanians and Swiss played and laughed together and anything that separates had disappeared.
For a short time the kind of peace that surmounts borders and difficulties and which we dream of was somehow tangible.