6 INTERVIEW • WAR CRY • 18 May 2019
Football coaches tackle refugee crisis Hillsong Church
Ahead of FA Cup final weekend, Sarah Olowofoyeku visited a football programme that helps young refugees to find their feet. The leader of the project RALPH BOER tells her how the organisers try to create a welcoming atmosphere
OME top players from around the world will be going toe to toe at 5 pm today (Saturday 18 May) in the FA Cup final at Wembley. Tensions will run high as five previous rounds of knockout matches for the two teams culminate in the competition’s finale. By the end of today, either Manchester City or Watford will walk away victorious, cup in hand. Every Friday, on the other side of the capital, the stakes are a little lower for a group of boys who come from all over the world. A highlight of their week is a kickabout with Football United, a programme that exists to help refugees relax and find a safe space amid their difficulties.
Ralph Boer On a chilly night, I join this group on the grounds of a south London school. The atmosphere is buzzing as the boys and their coaches begin to gather on the artificial pitch. Greetings are lobbed through the air in numerous languages, and rough play and banter are on show. Some boys team up to practise their shooting and passing, while others catch up off the pitch. The coaches blow their whistles, and the scene that follows is nothing out of the ordinary: boys who just want one more attempt at scoring a goal, stragglers who still haven’t finished putting on their kit and boys kicking a ball at the other end of the pitch who show no sign of joining the huddle. Eventually, though, everyone gathers and the boys are put into teams. The volunteer coaches are from Hillsong Church in London, and the programme was initiated by the church’s