Conversations from the ground:
Team member Sean met two Kurdish Iranian guys in the tea tent in Grande Synthe camp this week. One was 19 and an ex student, the other was 27 and an electrical engineer. Sean says:
“The pride in thier faces when they mentioned where they were from and what they used to do very quickly morphed into lingering sadness as they remembered how much had changed for them, and how uncertain their future now was…
They asked me if and what I had studied, why I was here and how long I had been here, I asked them the same. As my reason was The Liberté Cupfootball tournament, our conversation soon turned to football, a common ground that has built and sustained relationships between men the world over for almost 100 years.
They were Tottenham fans. I’m a Charlton fan. They smiled and mentioned Reza Ghoochanejhad, an Iranian Kurd who played for Charlton last season.
For me what stood out was the innocuousness of the conversation in the most irregular of settings. Through broken English we spoke about famous footballers with ease. Football really is a universal language, which is of course a tired cliché but in that moment it transcended culture and language barriers.
I got on to family, I mentioned that my uncle was Iranian, they liked this, their happiness clear but stifled, enthusiasm about the notion of acceptance from thier hoped prospective country again intermingled with angst and uncertainty of whether they can make it.
For me the conflicting emotion in the men was palpable, hope can’t spring eternal when the route is so uncertain but neither can it die in a man. The tightrope they all walk daily and the feeling you get listening to the answering of everyday questions is clear. The juxtaposition of an everyday question that has an everyday answer but an incredibly loaded subtext is quite unique.
They went on to tell me that they didn’t even really like or often drink tea, but they were in the tent as it was something to do. “better than drinking wine,” they told me.
This was quite poignant for me. Their words screamed boredom and were the potential answer you would get from a depressed man. The tea tent is one of the very few places to congregate and pass time. The wine comment spoke to me of the dangers of substance abuse in a place with no hope.
From what I could see, our football tournament (The Liberté Cup) is the only collective organized leisure activity in the Grande Synthe camp. A reminder that whatever your situation, there is always something to look forward to.”
Thank you to our amazing team on the ground in the run up to the tournament. It was such an incredible day.