The atmosphere is electric in Slagelse Stadium during the finals weekend of the Asylum League. Eight teams from asylum centres all over Denmark have spent the season fine-tuning their game to qualify for the finals. They are playing for the community – and to win. The weekly training sessions and matches have merely whetted their appetites for the freshly-polished cup displayed on the royal blue cloth of the table in front of the tunnel. The players file past in reverence.
High fives and greetings of recognition fly through the air. They may be opponents on the pitch, but the players in the Asylum League are also friends who clap each other’s backs and swap stories of good and bad news as they arrive in on coaches from Jutland and Zealand for the finals weekend in Slagelse Stadium. News of who has been granted asylum – and who has been rejected. The others share the waiting-time and the uncertainty.
Speculations about the past, the present, the future weigh heavily. So much so that it can be hard to sleep at night. The training and the matches help. The League fosters a sense of community among the many different nationalities on each team, and the body feels more relaxed after training. But right now, it´s all about the finals
Abdul Samet from Avnstrup Asylum Centre is ready. “The pitches in Slagelse Stadium are good. And when you play on a good pitch, you play better. And that makes you feel good.”
The Asylum League gives the asylum-seekers a chance to train and feel part of a community in a daily life that is often marked by worries. It also helps to promote integration in the local community. The teams are trained by local soccer coaches, and the asylum-seekers meet local soccer players in the club house.
No one is more proud of this success at building local relations than Per Bjerregaard, former chairman and director of the Danish club Brondby IF, and the man who came up with the idea for the soccer league. “It’s about the
individual’s sense of belonging to a community – in contrast to the sense of loneliness that’s part of the life of an asylum seeker. But it’s just as much about building solidarity and interacting with the local community.”
The project is being run by the Red Cross in collaboration with The Danish Football Association (DBU) with support from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and the Danish foundation TrygFonden.
"Football is good. All sport is good. But football brings more action into my life.”
Whenever Abdul Samet isn’t at Danish lessons or doing chores in Avnstrup Asylum Centre he spends time in the hall.
“If I don’t have chores or class, then I go down and talk to my friends about life. About my life – about their lives. We talk about he same things every day. Sometimes about soccer – that Real Madrid has lost a match. Sometimes I play FIFA on my mobile. Most of the time actually.”
There are 500 asylum seekers living at Avnstrup Asylum Centre. Located close to Hvalsø in the Municipality of Lejre, Avnstrup is the largest asylum centre on Zealand.
Abdul Samet is living at Avnstrup Asylum Centre while waiting for a decision on his residence permit. His wife and daughter have already got their residence permits, and they now live in Frederiksberg in Copenhagen.
“Sometimes we lose players from the team. Sometimes new players join us from other centres. But we’re still a team”, says Abdul Samet
“If you play nice, you become good friends – like a family”
“At the end of the game, when you’re going over the match with the others – that’s when you become friends. That’s when you become a family.”
“I’ve got to know a lot of people – both inside and outside the centre. From Dianalund, from Kalundborg. We’re friends”
“If I’m always thinking, always downhearted, then that’s not good. Neither for me nor for my family.”
“If you’re negative, it will affect your life in a negative way. It’s important to find something that makes you happy. To wake up and say: Today I’ll do such and such a thing – and park the negative thoughts. You’ve got to enjoy life.”
TrygFonden’s goal is to improve safety in Denmark by promoting security, health and wellbeing. The foundation seeks to encourage people to participate in positive social communities by means of volunteering, employment, networking and on their own initiative. This also applies to people in particularly vulnerable situations. Under the banner “Part of a community”, TrygFonden supports projects that focus on
More people being part of positive, social communities
More vulnerable or marginalised children, youths and adults having
access to guidance and support which can improve their opportunities to participate in positive communities
More volunteers and professionals working together to improve the access of vulnerable or marginalised children, youths and adults to positive, social communities
More people working towards creating jobs for vulnerable or marginalised people in social-economic enterprises and through social investments
Developing and testing methods to strengthen the capacity of civil society, the labour market and the public
sector to create positive, social communities
Project Asylum League is one of the projects that TrygFonden supports. Many young, male asylum-seekers lack both physical and mental challenges while staying in asylum centres. The Asylum League will help provide these young men with the community they often miss.
Read more: trygfonden.dk