Football is a passion for many communities all around the world including the Middle East. Either on or off the pitch, people participate in the game with all their hearts.
From 23 to 25 November, 8 teams from 3 universities in South East Turkey participated in the first-ever SPARK football tournament, supported by EU MADAD Fund. The teams consisted of university students from Turkish and Syrian refugee communities studying at Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa. Students came together to participate in this sporting event with the aim of showing that sports foster tolerance, understanding and cohesion as much as it contributes to personal well-being.
Players spread across the pitch; skipping, stretching and side-stepping to warm up. All the teams were eager to take part in the final game and players came with full energy each time the referee blew his whistle. Superb strikes and sometimes own goals defined the atmosphere, creating great stress and excitement for players as much as for their supporters. As the final game approached, chants of Syrian and Turkish supporters grew louder while player’s faces beaded with sweat. Despite closely contested games being played, players showed what fair play is and many of them expressed feelings of joy for taking part in this activity.
The first day of the tournament was held in Şanlıurfa with the participation of 2 teams from Harran University and this game determined the winner of Şanlıurfa that is going to take part in the semi-finals in Gaziantep. The rest of the competing teams comprised of 1 team from Kahramanmaraş Sütçü İmam University and 5 teams from Gaziantep University.
Al Faris and Al Karamah were two teams undertaking the final game. Despite great efforts of both teams, crafty attacks of Al Karamah led the team to victory and placed Al Faris as runners-up. All 9 members of Al Karamah team were awarded medals at the final ceremony of the tournament as a remembrance of the day. At the end of the tournament, SPARK staff mostly consisting of women played a bonus match with the winning team.
Beyond the competition in the tournament, SPARK and its international partner, EU, ensures that diverse opportunities are available for both host and refugee communities. We encourage young people to take part in activities that build bridges of intercultural understanding.