Halifax soccer centre opens doors to Syrian refugees
For the past few weeks, Syrian refugees – mostly children – have been showing up at the BMO Soccer Centre to play the sport they know as football.
Published Friday, January 15, 2016 8:56AM AST
Canadians have opened their hearts and arms to thousands of Syrian refugees, and now the BMO Soccer Centre in Halifax is opening its doors too.
For the past few weeks, refugees – mostly children – have been showing up at the centre to play the sport they know as football.
While the refugees are new to Canada, many are very familiar with the sport.
“Even in little alleys and streets you’ll find children playing immediately games of six-on-six and then parents will be shouting ‘come back home, come back home,’ but they are playing football,” said Arabic translator Issam Khoury.
Speaking through Khoury, 11-year-old Mohammad Alaz, who has been in Halifax for two weeks with his family, told CTV News he is “very happy” to be in Canada and playing soccer.
Many of the families are living in hotels and the children are waiting to start school. The executive director of Soccer Nova Scotia says allowing them to play at the BMO Soccer Centre gives them a chance to get out and stretch their legs.
He also says their talents are being noticed.
“They have advanced skill level. You can tell they have been playing the game for a while, and all ages too,” said Brad Lawlor.
The refugees may have a lot to learn, including English, but they are showing Canadians a thing or two on the soccer field.
Many grew up with the game, but some haven’t been able to play because they feared for their safety or lived in refugee camps where the conditions weren’t fit.
For 43-year-old Bashir Khalef, playing soccer is one of many firsts in Canada, but his goals are much bigger than learning how to score points on the field.
“My aim is that all of us will learn English and have a good future,” he said, speaking through Khoury.
The refugees have been invited to play throughout the week and by summer they will be on teams with children their own ages.
“I think coming to the centre a couple times a week and getting them familiar with the game and our facility will make them more comfortable with joining the club system,” said Lawlor.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kelland Sundahl