Thursday 10 August 2023, 14:00

Refugees Unite for Peace at FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023

  • Refugees from various parts of the world attended Jamaica-Colombia match on Tuesday

  • Invitation in line with FIFA’s Unite for Peace social impact cause and is part of the flagship campaign, Football Unites the World

  • “Amazing day” included behind-the-scenes access, a visit to Melbourne/Naarm’s sporting precinct and match tickets

A group of 40 refugees who have fled conflicts around the world, was invited to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Melbourne/Naarm – a city they now call home. Ahead of the Colombia-Jamaica Round of 16 match, the group enjoyed an access-all-areas tour of the stadium, where they posed with the Unite for Peace pre-match ceremony flag. They also visited the players’ dressing rooms, competition areas - including the tunnel and media areas – before leaving a gift for each of the teams and match officials - UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, ‘Dream Balls’ designed by Gerald, a young refugee designer from Cameroon, now living in Italy. Having been forced to escape conflict, the group, who have now happily resettled in Melbourne, shared in a fun, sport-themed day. After being given an access-all-areas tour of the stadium, group participants were welcomed to the neighbouring Melbourne Cricket Ground for lunch, and a second guided tour at the Australian Sports Museum, to enjoy a close-hand look at Australia’s biggest sport venue and enjoy an interactive experience in the museum. The sport-themed day was enjoyed by refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, Myanmar, and Ukraine together with FIFA and UNHCR representatives - all united by a passion for sport. Among them were women’s national team players from Afghanistan, the Hope Australia Soccer Academy, as well as families who received FIFA assistance with their evacuation from Afghanistan. After the day’s activities, the group experienced the electric atmosphere brought by Colombia and Jamaica supporters.

“I've watched men's football matches in Afghanistan on TV, but today my dream true said Fahima, who attended with her seven-year-old nephew Mohammad. "I'd always wanted to see women's football live" Fahima continued. "It was wonderful for us to see these strong women playing with complete freedom, supported by such a large crowd. It was also wonderful for us to meet the players of the Afghanistan women's national team. “We're so thankful to FIFA for organising this amazing day for us. It was FIFA that helped us to live in a safe country. Being able to attend and be a part of this tournament, really was very special."

The invitation for the refugees was in line with FIFA’s Unite for Peace social impact cause which was activated during the tournament’s Round of 16 matches, under the flagship campaign, Football Unites the World. FIFA and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, joined forces to raise awareness around the right to seek asylum for those forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. “Sport has the potential to transform the lives of those forced to flee conflict and persecution – it can help to build confidence and skills, and can include and empower refugee women and girls, bringing communities together,” said Adrian Edwards, UNHCR Regional Representative for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. Sheila Nguyen, Head of Sustainability Australia & New Zealand 2023 said: “To be involved was very touching and made me think about my own personal experience as a child of refugees and what this moment would have meant to me - even in the abstract- to reflect on being seen and acknowledged in my new home/country.

“From small things, come big things and I hope the work only continues to grow with our arms wide open.” Andrew Farmer from Hope Australia Soccer Academy added: “We had eight students present of Afghanistan heritage aged 12-16 and who have been living over in Australia for the past two to three years. “The evening was summed up by the wonderful smiles on the faces of the students when receiving the gifts, and their tremendous excitement to share photos with their friends on social media. Thank you to FIFA and UNHCR for the opportunity to take our students to a FIFA Women’s World Cup match.”