Yesterday, Sunday June 18th, refugees and their supporters from Leeds took part in the ‘Refugee World Cup’ at the South Leeds stadium. The tournament featured players and teams from Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Pakistan, Albania, Sudan, Iran, England and Iraq and was the first Leeds event to mark Refugee Week (18-24 June).
Among the refugee footballers were Lorek Cela, from Kosovo and Houmed Ali from Somalia. Lorek, 32, plays for Albanians United. He came to the UK from Kosovo in 1991 after being press-ganged into the Yugoslav army to fight against Croatians. Lorek wanted no part in what he describes as Milosevic’s “killing machine”, so he sought refuge in the UK. He says he is now in his dream job, working on the induction team for the Refugee Council. When he arrived in the UK there was no proper system for helping people get settled and now he is glad to have the opportunity to help new arrivals in the UK.
Houmed Ali, 20, plays for the Somalia Tigers. Ali came to the UK from Somalia in 2001, aged just 15. His father and two of his brothers were killed by militia in Somalia, leading Ali, his sister and his brother in law to flee. He has a sister left in Somalia, but he doesn’t know what has happened to her. Ali’s asylum case has been rejected because the Home Office said he didn’t know enough about the clan he was from in Somalia, although Ali says they didn’t ask him much about it at his asylum interview. He is currently awaiting the results of his A-level French exams which he sat in May this year. He passed his BTec in business studies and wants to study accountancy.
The tournament was organised by the Leeds Sports Development and the Refugee Council, who fielded its own team. Refugee Council team captain, Nazar Hadi, said:
“The Refugee World Cup is a marvellous event. It’s a great opportunity for us to meet refugees and asylum seekers in different circumstances from our office where we are dealing mainly with problems. This is a lovely chance for us all to have fun with members of Leeds refugee community organisations.”
For more information on events in Leeds to mark Refugee Week, including a carnival procession through Leeds city centre on Monday 19th June, a fashion show, an arts showcase, film screenings and photo exhibitions, see the Refugee Week website.
For interviews with Lorek or Houmed, contact Richard Byrne, Refugee Council Regional Media Officer, tel: 0113 386 2235/ 07776 203404