Pop Up Pitch Brings Joy to Greek Refugees

Last month, the Greek Homeless Football Team, organized by the street paper Shedia, made their first trip to the refugee camp in Kordelio, Thessaloniki with a portable football pitch. The camp is in a disused Softex factory and is home to 1,000 mostly Syrian refugees.

Members of the Greek team – who won the 2016 Richard Ishmail Fair Play Award at this summer’s Homeless World Cup in Glasgow – were pitch side for a series of friendly matches.

“We were all very emotional and very proud with events of the day. It was very emotional and really fantastic to see all these refugee kids being happy and laughing chasing after a ball,” said organiser and Shedia editor-in-chief Chris Alefantis. “It was really difficult to answer the question to these wonderful kids ‘are you coming back tomorrow?’”

The next day, they welcomed more teams at a camp in central Thessaloniki. In addition to refugee players, the event welcomed veteran players from PAOK FC and u-19s from ARIS FC, plus supporters from YMCA Greece, Anatolia College and Doctors of the World, according to Chris.

“We are planning nine such visits up to Saturday June 3, the day of the Champions League final,” explained Chris. “On this day, we are planning a tournament in a camp in northern Greece and then a big football party, as part of which we will watch all together the CL Final on a big screen that we will be providing.”

Organizers hope the series of events will give refugees a means of forgetting the hardships of life in a refugee camp for a few hours.

The project is partly supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the UEFA Foundation for Children, and streetfootballworld.