“Welcome Through Football” Panel Shines at 20th EFDN ‘Making Football Matter’ Conference

22 November 2023

“Welcome Through Football” Panel Shines at 20th EFDN ‘Making Football Matter’ Conference

The 20th EFDN ‘Making Football Matter’ Conference in Athens witnessed an inspiring and insightful panel discussion titled “Welcome Through Football,” featuring prominent speakers Shayan Gazerani from Newcastle United Foundation, Amaliia Shepel from Big Hearts, Jelena Nienstedt from Refugio Bremen, and Charles Ogaraku from Sheffield United Foundation.

Shayan Gazerani, the Project Coordinator for Employability in the refugee community at Newcastle United Foundation, shared his experiences and initiatives aimed at fostering employability among refugees. He highlighted the Foundation’s commitment to using football as a tool for empowerment, emphasizing the positive impact it has on the lives of individuals seeking refuge.

Amaliia Shepel, a participant in Big Hearts’ welcome through football program, provided a personal account of her journey. She spoke passionately about the program’s ability to create a sense of belonging and community through football, showcasing the transformative power of the sport in the lives of refugees.

Jelena Nienstedt, a psychosocial counselor at Refugio Bremen, shed light on the critical role of mental health support in refugee communities. Through her work, Nienstedt emphasized the unique ability of football to serve as a therapeutic outlet, promoting well-being and resilience among individuals facing the challenges of displacement.

Charles Ogaraku, now a community coach at Sheffield United Foundation, shared his remarkable journey from being a participant in the welcome through football program to becoming an integral part of the foundation. Ogaraku’s story underscored the potential of football not only as a means of integration but also as a pathway to professional development within the community.

The ‘Welcome Through Football’ panel resonated with the conference’s overarching theme of ‘Making Football Matter,’ showcasing how football can transcend its role as a sport and become a powerful catalyst for positive social change.

The panelists collectively emphasized the importance of collaboration between football clubs, foundations, and the broader community to create inclusive and impactful programs. Their stories served as a testament to the transformative potential of football in welcoming and integrating refugees, reaffirming the belief that the beautiful game has the power to break down barriers and foster a sense of unity among diverse communities.

As the 20th EFDN ‘Making Football Matter’ Conference concluded, the ‘Welcome Through Football’ panel left a lasting impression, inspiring attendees to continue leveraging the sport as a force for good in communities around the world.