Young football fans at the world’s second largest refugee camp of Zaatari, and players of the Jordan Under-17 Women’s National Team had the opportunity yesterday to dribble the ball with football superstar Mesut Özil, the Germany midfielder who plays his club football for Arsenal FC.
Syrian boys and girls under the age of 13 who participate in regular football tournaments inside Zaatari were thrilled to witness the international football idol make a surprise appearance during a football festival on Wednesday morning. The festival was organized by the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP) which has been running various football and social development programs in and around the camp in Northern Jordan since 2012, employing the sport as a platform for education, strengthening social cohesion and bringing back a sense of normalcy in the lives of refugees and host-communities.
Following Zaatari, Ozil joined HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, President of the Jordan Football Association and Founder and Chairman of AFDP, in a visit to Youth City in Amman to meet with the players of the Jordan U17 Women’s National Team and attend their practice as the team prepares for the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup, which the country is hosting in September and October 2016.
“It’s great to have my good friend Mesut Ozil come and visit Jordan, he is such an inspiration to so many people, and he got to see first hand how football can be a positive force for young refugees. I’m also glad he gave a massive boost of encouragement to our U-17 Women’s National Team who are preparing to take part in FIFA Women’s World Cup,” Prince Ali noted.
“When my friend Prince Ali suggested to me to visit the Zaatari camp, I immediately said yes, I cannot say more than that it was a moving experience for me to play football with these kids here today,” Ozil commented.
Rania Juneidi, a 12-year-old Syrian refugee and Arsenal fan expressed her gratitude to Ozil for his visit, “I passed the ball to Ozil himself and he gave me a high five, this is the best day of my life,” she said.
The AFDP is a non-profit youth commission that focuses its needs-based support on promoting social development through football across Asia, with a special emphasis on grassroots and youth development, advancing women’s football and empowering women, as well as protecting and developing the game.