With the support of Wadi, a unique soccer team has come together in Erbil. The team is made up of Kurds, Arabs, Iraqis, Syrians, Muslims and members of the religious minority Shabak. Several members are refugees, while others are internally displaced persons; others yet are locals from Kurdistan. The team brings together young men of different origins and religions, these differences which are so often triggers for the conflicts in the Middle East, have to be dealt with in order to work as a team. As a football team, the idea is to score as many goals as possible, and that only happens when you work together. This team is a living advertisement for peaceful coexistence in a region ravaged by wars.
Team-Wadi, as it is called, also promotes a modern idea of citizenship where everyone, regardless of where they come from, which religion they follow, whether they are men or women, have equal rights.
This initiative goes back to our co-worker Kurdistan Rasul, who manages the campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM) in Erbil. She explained what motivates the team:
“A football team always consists of several members. Each member plays a certain role within the team. In order to be able to successfully play together: a respectful interaction amongst each other, a cohesion within the team as well as mutual understanding are necessary. As soon as individual team members cease to exist, the cohesion of the team is threatened. The same is true in a society: as soon as origin and individual faith are no longer private, but become a public question, the peaceful coexistence of people within a society is endangered. The different forces pulling at each other can lead to a break between people. “
To create a respectful relationship between each other, members of various social groups – native Kurds, Syrian refugees, members of the religious minority of Shabak and others – gathered together in a football team:
“This team was founded to stop discrimination between Iraqi Arabs, Kurds and Syrian Arabs. We are not all that different, “says Ali Ramze, who is Kurdish and of the Shabakh faith.
“This team was founded to demonstrate that people of different origins can work together as a team, and that when people are restricted in their freedom, there is division.”
The creation of the football team goes hand in hand with the basic objectives of Wadi in the region. The main focus is on the fight for citizenship, self-determination, peaceful social coexistence and the acceptance of different individual ways of life. This is what the players in the Wadi football team practice in their games and to show their fellow men.
This project has attracted quite some media attention. Several newspapers reported, and the channel KNN even produced a small report on the team:
It is important that the team consists primarily of young people. Young people are always the bearers of fundamental societal changes and upheavals. They are willing to implement their own positive ideas of society and to serve an example to others.
In the past, Wadi has supported various girls’ football teams, with whom we developed the “You can not beat me” campaign against domestic violence.
We wish Team Wadi many victories on the pitch, and may these young footballers be an example to others.