11 April 2017

Social Cohesion through Football in Lebanon

 

Sport in general - and football, in particular, as the world’s largest sport - has the ability to provide a positive and playful environment that makes it easier for participants to be open to topics beyond the game and can therefore have an enormous effect on easing social tensions. We are harnessing the power of the beautiful game to contribute to building peaceful relations between Lebanese host communities and refugees through networking and community-building activities. The specifically designed project funded by the UEFA Foundation for Children and the German Federal Foreign Office targets refugees in their difficult daily environment and aims to increase peaceful dialogue and tolerance between refugees and their Lebanese hosts. Kicking off in September 2016, we trained both Syrian and Lebanese volunteers to use and teach inclusive sport and social cohesion methodologies – acting as multipliers and contributing to a local dialogue between the hardest-to-reach. Boys and girls will multiply our methodology as peace ambassadors throughout their communities, guaranteeing the project’s resonance beyond its duration and initial reach.

 

Impressions from Lebanon

 

Our regional manager responsible for the Middle East travelled to Lebanon in December 2016 to meet our network member and local partner ANERA and visit sites where the project is being implemented. In this report we want to share the initial successes and challenges of our project as well as our impressions from a country braving one of the most difficult periods in its recent history.

 

Lebanon, which spent two years in a political stalemate before Michel Anoun was elected President in October 2016, has been torn apart due to internal instability and as the unwilling host of proxy wars between neighbouring countries. Tensions have been exacerbated as a result of rivalries between domestic and international political groups. In addition, 2 million Syrian and Palestinian refugees entered Lebanon legally and illegally, posing a massive strain on a country with a population of just 4.5 million.

 

Our visit to Lebanon began in the Bekaa Valley in Eastern Lebanon, the country’s most impoverished region, which has received particularly high numbers of refugees due to its proximity to the border with Syria. Together with our colleagues from ANERA we visited refugee camps and informal settlements and met with community leaders to discuss future collaborations.

 

We then made our way to the south of Lebanon, one of country’s more conservative areas. The region is a stronghold of the Hezbollah party and close to the UN secured Israeli-Lebanese border, the so-called 'Blue Line', contributing to its precarious security situation.  

 

In an informal refugee settlement hosting Syrians, Syrian Palestinians and internally displaced Lebanese, we came across an inspiring duo, Nazha and Hanan. They belong to a group of 7 female students who commit their efforts towards improving their community by offering Arabic, English, and Maths courses to local disadvantaged children. The large success of their classes and their hopes of moving towards more sports-based programme has put logistical pressure on the project, which is where ANERA and streetfootballworld can lend their support.     

                                                                                                                                                

Following our visit to Southern Lebanon, we met with potential project partners in the Shatila and Sabra camps of Beirut, where space is limited and high crime rates are impacting the lives of children and youth. One of the Shatila camp initiatives we met focuses on the reintegration of former drug abusers into society - a project which thoroughly impressed us. Run by a few volunteers, this initiative involves former drug abusers in community improvement activities. The street on which their office and some of their classrooms are based is a testament to the success of their work in an otherwise grim environment: the walls are colourfully painted, the drains have been cleaned, streetlights and a fire hose have been installed. Most importantly though, dangerously dangling electrical cables have been removed – every year, numerous lives are lost through electrocution with mainly children affected. This project seeks to add football3 to their programme to deliver messages beyond the classroom and to engage both genders on the pitch. This is, of course, where ANERA and streetfootballworld have found fertile ground for collaboration.

 

The final initiative we visited in Lebanon’s capital is run by and for women. With just two staff members, Maria and Nayiri, the project has come to be an established institution in the neighbourhood over the last few years. Here, refugee women meet at the centre to take part in a range of activities that are directed towards building sustainable livelihoods. In addition to these classes, the women have the opportunity to receive psychological counselling to overcome the trauma they and their families often suffer from.

 

For the last leg of our project visit, we attended on of the football3 training sessions which are part of the initial project stage. streetfootballworld's method to use the beautiful game for social good is an integral part of the projects implemented in Lebanon and will create a pool of football3 coaches who will train their peers. 

 

The training was led by Hiba Jaafil, a football expert from Lebanon. Hiba collaborates with us to coach teams in Beirut as well as Southern and Eastern Lebanon to ensure football3 skills are learnt throughout the country. Around 30 people, half of them female, participated in the 3-day session which we attended. The trainees first sat down for several lessons in theory before taking to the pitch of a local school that served as a training ground. The training session spawned new football3 coaches eager to return to their respective neighbourhoods and spread the power of football to local youth.

 

All in all, our visit to Lebanon generated a strong hope for what is to come through the collaboration with our network member ANERA and other local organisations. There is no doubt that the country offers immense potential for the development of effective change-through-sport projects that could alter the lives of thousands of disadvantaged people together with local organisations.    

                                             

streetfootballworld – through the generous support of the German Federal Foreign Ministry and the UEFA Foundation for Children – looks forward to doing just that.

 

 

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