Lay’s, the UEFA Foundation for Children and the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP), have joined together to install a new artificial football pitch in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Northern Jordan. The new facility, a full-size pitch made with artificial turf, will provide thousands of football-loving Za-atari residents the opportunity to participate in, train, and watch their favourite game.
The pitch will be officially opened by HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein today at a ceremony attended by members of the community and local qualified football coaches. As the AFDP Founder and Chairman, HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein will also be joined by UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin and PepsiCo Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Vice President for Snacks Mustafa Shamseldin. Representatives from the Jordan Football Association and the Norway Football Federation will also attend recognising the assistance and support both organisations have given to the ongoing UEFA Foundation for Children-AFDP programs for refugees and host communities in Jordan over the last four years.
More than 200 girls and boys living in the camp, all aged between 10 and 13 years old, will attend the opening event and have the chance to try out the pitch and test their skills with a variety of football activities led by their coaches and UEFA ambassadors, Christian Karembeu and Lara Dickermann.
The new football pitch will help thousands of football-loving children, boys and girls alike, as well as adults, to enjoy their favourite sport in a safe environment with excellent facilities – and complements the ‘House of Sports’, a centre for sports and socio-educational activities, which opened in September 2016 by the UEFA Foundation for Children and AFDP.
PepsiCo’s MENA Vice President for Snacks Mustafa Shamseldin said: “We hope that this joint effort from the UEFA Foundation for Children, the AFDP and Lay’s will help the community here live out their passion for football. Football is known for bringing people together to enjoy a sport they love, whether it is playing or watching, and we hope many residents here can benefit from this new pitch for many years to come. We aim to do business in a way that is sensitive to societal needs. We call this Performance with Purpose and a key part of this is helping improve the communities around us. We are very proud to be here today to open this facility and would like to thank all of those who have helped make it happen.”
Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, AFDP Founder and Chairman commented: “Powerful mediums such as sport and education have the ability to plant seeds of hope and potentiality even under the most difficult circumstances. Thanks to my friend Aleksander Ceferin, and my colleagues at the UEFA Foundation for Children and PepsiCo for supporting the Asian Football Development Project’s projects at the camp and for providing the refugee boys and girls with a healthy, quality space that they can use not only to train, but also to build friendships and learn skills that are beneficial on and off the pitch,” Prince Ali added.
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said: “It’s a wonderful feeling to see how something as simple as a football pitch can bring so much joy and happiness. Football has the ability to inspire, unite and also teach children important life skills and values, such as teamwork and respect. It is genuinely a humbling experience to be able to interact with children from this camp. Despite the situations they find themselves in, they are able still to smile and enjoy life as much as possible. I am glad that the work carried out by the UEFA Foundation for Children, the Asian Football Development Project and Lay’s is giving these children opportunities that they otherwise would not have had.”
Since 2013, AFDP and UEFA Foundation for Children have been organizing regular football training sessions and workshops at the camp for those displaced by the conflict in Syria, particularly for children, who are the most vulnerable victims of war. This long-term collaboration has enabled the initiation of numerous projects that use sport, with a focus on football, as a platform for social development. Football continues to play a pivotal role in helping refugees respond to the challenges posed by their displacement and the impact the conflict has had on their lives, by giving them a fun and healthy team-work based outlet, where they can build friendships and regain a sense of normalcy and hope. Moreover, the UEFA Foundation for Children – AFDP collaboration has trained 250 refugees, of whom 163 are men and 87 are women, to become coaches for over 4,480 Syrian kids to date, comprising 3,185 boys and 1,295 girls. The coaches, in turn, have initiated their own football league within the camp and hope to establish a football club in the near future.
Lay’s, a PepsiCo owned brand, has been an official partner of the UEFA Champions League (UCL) since 2015. It has a long-standing relationship with football around the world, having developed several initiatives to promote the sport throughout the Arab World in addition to its UCL partnership. Lay’s has also transformed abandoned areas into football pitches throughout Cairo and KSA, as well as screening UCL matches free in youth centers and other locations across both countries.