Za’atari Refugee Camp

Planet League in a refugee camp in Jordan

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Published on

14 Jul 2021

Summer 2021 we ran a summer tournament mainly for club community organisations holding summer camps for kids. It was a heated affair - no, not just the weather driven by climate change. But the competition between Arsenal and Burnley to see who would top the table. The score was close and Drew Tyler who headed up the Coaching For Life programme at Arsenal had an idea.

Coaching For Life is a community programme which Arsenal runs in conjunction with Save the Children. They help young people at the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan who have escaped the war in Syria.

There’s no rule saying we can’t have overseas people playing for our Planet League team.

“It was a way to engage the young people on our Coaching for Life programme and help connect them to our local work and enhance their sense of belonging to our wider work and feel closer to the Arsenal community in London,” explained Drew.

Drew got them involved in some of the Planet League challenges, particularly those encouraging them and their families to get active and look after their environment by cleaning their sports pitches.

“The children in Za’atari are extremely considerate and empathetic, demonstrated recently as they wrote letters and drew pictures to send to young people, often their families, in Syria and Turkey affected by the earthquakes. It was great for the young people to consider how they can contribute individually and as a group to the environment.”

In the end, Arsenal pipped Burnley 1,104 goals to 1,071 - the Za’atari children playing a key role in the 43 goal win. We never thought Planet League would reach a refugee camp in Jordan.

Here’s the painful irony: one of the contributing causes of the war in Syria is climate change itself. Severe drought forced over a million farmers and their families from the countryside into cities, leading to unrest. Not the only cause, by far, but one of the reasons for the Za’atari Refugee Camp where over 70,000 people still live.