To coincide with World Refugee Day which takes place annually on 20 June, Goal Click and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, launched a new photographic series: “Goal Click Refugees”. The unique series collaborates with refugees and asylum seekers around the world to document their personal stories and experiences through football, using a disposable analogue camera.
Intimate photos and unfiltered stories came back from refugee camps in Jordan, Kenya and South Sudan, as well as the playing fields of New York and Sydney. Offering a platform to unheard voices and highlighting the experiences of refugees through the common language of football, the series features more than 25 male and female refugees across five continents.
Photographer: Shegofa Hassani Nationality: Afghanistan NGO: Football United Location: Sydney, Australia
I am Shogofa Rahimi, playing at a Sydney United training session in Sydney. My passion for football started as a child when I played with my brothers. However, I hesitated to pursue it further because of cultural barriers and my family.
A lot of people still don’t think Afghan girls should play sport, and this allows us an opportunity to prove them wrong and stay active and socially connected. I want more and more Afghan girls to dream big and follow those dreams. Too many of our girls are not following their dreams because of cultural, family and financial barriers. None of our girls played football back in Afghanistan because girls were not allowed to play.
Photographer: Sofia Nationality: Afghanistan NGO: Caritas Location: Cardiff, Wales (Homeless World Cup)
I am from Afghanistan and raised in Iran. I was not allowed to play football as a girl in Iran. I never had the idea to play football, as I only ever saw boys playing. I am very happy that I am allowed to live in Austria. There are many opportunities for women here. Sometimes I think it is a paradise here because there are good opportunities for everything.
One day there was an invitation to try out for the Homeless World Cup team. And I was selected to represent Austria. It means that everyone sees me as a human being. In Iran I wasn’t accepted. No one spoke to me and I was more or less ignored. But here I am part of a team and that is what I really enjoy and love.
I spend my whole day playing football. I love football and my food is just a ball - it gives me energy. Hopefully someday I can help all the girls in my country so they can get involved in sports. I also had tough days because of football, but for me life is like a carousel and it always turns.
Photographer: Yvan Bikambo Nationality: Cameroon (refugees from Central African Republic) NGO: Red Deporte Location: Mandjou, Cameroon
The primary school of Bindia is a public school where students from refugee families are the majority. In the classrooms we have both Cameroonian and Central African children. And they play together during breaks. They also meet outside school as they live in the same areas and communities in Mandjou. In Mandjou the refugees are well integrated into the communities because many of them have developed businesses: selling cereals and vegetables, beef, and household products.
Photographer: Maram Nationality: Syria NGO: UNICEF Location: Zaatari, Jordan
Our girls’ football team is in Zaatari camp. I wanted to show our skills in football, the game that I find hope in for my future. The community here believes that football is only for boys, and girls shouldn’t do it. But when I play football it raises my spirits and it reinforces my self-confidence. Because I am a girl, I can be the person that changes how the community perceives girls’ football and breaks the wall of shame.
My wish is to strengthen my skills in football, so I can achieve my dream and become a famous footballer, and to travel with my family and play football outside the camp.
Photographer: David Philip Nationality: Sudan / South Sudan NGO: Green Kordofan Location: Yida, South Sudan
Around 60,000 people who were displaced from their homes by war, live in Yida. Football allowed me to have many friends from different tribes and around the world. It brought me peace and unity with people.
Photographer: Mehdi Rakhshandeh Nationality: Iran NGO: MFC Foundation Location: Middlesbrough, UK
There is a real mixture of people in our weekly football sessions of different races and religions. In any one session there would be people from Africa, Iran, Syria and obviously England. The English people I met have all been very nice and welcoming to me.
Football played a big role in my life as I got accustomed to my new surroundings of the UK and Middlesbrough in particular. I played each week with MFC Foundation and it helped me to meet new people, learn about my new surroundings and improve my English! The football club really made me feel welcome and part of the community.
Photographer: Mahmoud Nationality: Syria NGO: UNHCR Location: Zaatari, Jordan
Children and people from inside the camp play football on the playground and streets, and a football field outside the camp. Football is really important and the community cares about it.
I started to love sports when I was a child in Daraa in Syria, and now a day of sports helps me to heal with the depression and sadness in the camp. I played football in my country Syria with my school team but left because of the war. I enjoy playing football and it gives me hope. My ambition is to play with a European football team.
Sport is my life. I can't live without it. I can't even spend one day without doing sports or playing football. It's one of my stress release methods. I am lucky to get the chance to play with Jordanian teams. This experience allows me to see the community outside of the refugee camp.
Photographer: Samuel Gedeon Nationality: Haiti NGO: RIFA Location: New York City, USA
Passion for soccer has brought immigrants from different countries together and created a community. Since they are from different countries, they have learned something from each other, they start to think differently, and they are helping communities through social action projects.
I'm from Haiti, where I discovered one of my biggest passions, which is soccer. I used to play soccer in the streets, futsal, and I had joined some clubs and played real soccer a few times with my friends. Sometimes with my friends we organised some street games with other neighbourhoods. In 2015 I moved to NYC with the hopes of finding a good soccer team, but when I came everyone played basketball. With determination, in 2017 I found Rooklyn.
Here’s a further selection of our favourite photos:
UNICEF camp in Zaatari, Jordan (Photographer Maram)
RIFA, New York City, USA (Photographer: Samuel Gedeon)