In world's largest refugee camp, youth are drawn to soccer

2017-06-25 19:57

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Bidi Bidi - The soccer field is littered with sharp stones, but the girls who attack the ball with their bare feet play on.

Here in what has become the world's largest refugee settlement, youth from South Sudan are drawn to soccer, a rare source of entertainment in an otherwise dreary existence.

In a bid to keep young people busy, the International Rescue Committee and other aid groups are hosting inter-village competitions meant to forge unity among the refugees, most of whom recently fled to Uganda to escape civil war.

"If they were not playing football now, they might be doing other things which could be detrimental in their lives," said Moses Opio, a Ugandan in charge of community services for the IRC. "Some of them would be playing cards, others would be smoking and others would be planning to do nasty things."

Soccer fields can be found across Bidi Bidi settlement and even more are being created, underscoring the importance of sport in a community trying to forget the horrors of war.

Many here have lost close relatives since the start in December 2013 of South Sudan's conflict, which has often been waged along ethnic lines and in which tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Bidi Bidi is now home to over 270 000 refugees, most of them women and children, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

They are among nearly one million South Sudanese now sheltering in Uganda, most having arrived in the past year.

Uganda's government and the UN are appealing for $8bn to deal with what has been called the world's fastest-growing refugee crisis.

As thousands of refugee continue to arrive, local authorities and aid workers must constantly improvise to make life as normal as possible.

"The idea of soccer days gave me happiness. I felt like I was going to restart building my passion for soccer," said Steven Batali, who used to teach mathematics before he fled the border town of Yei to avoid forced conscription into an armed group.

One recent afternoon, young men with rakes and hoes worked to level the site of a new soccer field, saying the land had been a forest not long ago.

A man with a salt-and-pepper beard named Emily Bronte said he was proud of the community's efforts toward having a standard football field of its own.

"A lot of our young children want to play football to forget what happened in South Sudan," he said. "In sport you can play and forget everything, and then at night you eat food and sleep."

Read more on:    uganda  |  south sudan  |  east africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Weird things dogs do

Caught your dog doing something... well a little bit odd? Don’t worry, there’s a simple explanation for his behaviour.

 
 

Paws

Makeover saves dog’s life
For the love of Corgis!
Can we communicate with our pets?
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.