Syrian refugee footballer sees professional match again


Ramy Guneat at international women's match The Netherlands-Switzerland, photo by Lieke Lamb

Translated from Dutch daily Metro:

Tears of happiness of refugee professional soccer player in ADO stadium

March 3, 2016 at 11:53 by Johan van Boven

The lighting columns, the stands, the cheering fans, the pitch, the players and the rolling ball. Ramy Guneat could not stop himself from crying this Wednesday because of the atmosphere in the stadium of ADO in The Hague. Tears of happiness, says the 29-year-old refugee from Syria who attended the match between the Dutch women’s football team and Switzerland.

That was a match for qualification for the Olympic Games football in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The Netherlands won the match, four goals against three.

The civil war in his homeland ended his career as a professional footballer. Guneat was under contract with AL-Karamah SC, a big club from his hometown Homs. “But two years ago the situation was so bad that I wanted nothing more than to escape,” he said in English, plus the occasional few words in Dutch. “Explosions everywhere. Also the area around our stadium was hit severely”.

Boat

So Guneat left his family and crossed the border to Turkey, where he crossed on a small boat to Greece. He then embarked on a long journey to the Netherlands. He points his finger to the palm of his hand, which serves as the map of Europe. “First I went to Macedonia, then to Serbia and Hungary. Eventually I came here, which is now about five months ago.”

Large parts of the route he traveled on foot, interspersed with bus rides. “I was on my way never really afraid, starvation was the worst. Hungary was not a nice country, the people there were very unfriendly. Very bad! Many people were angry at us and the police have arrested a number of refugees and thrown them in jail. When that happened, we stood together as a group. I was lucky that I was somewhere in the middle of that group, otherwise they would have jailed me.”

Emergency shelter

In the Netherlands, he arrived in the reception center in Haarlem, now he is staying in an emergency shelter in Duinrell. There he must wait until he gets refugee status and then again relocate to a refugee center elsewhere in the country.

Besides Guneat stands Lieke Lamb. She teaches in Duinrell Dutch lessons to refugees and had a spare ticket for the match Switzerland-The Netherlands (3-4) in the stadium of ADO Den Haag. “I knew that one of my students had a friend who in Syria used to be a professional footballer. So I asked Ramy whether he would like to go to a women’s football match.”…

He starts to laugh. “I really liked it, especially the number 10 I think was very good,” he refers to [Dutch international player] Danielle van de Donk. “Yet it also hurts a little to see people kick a ball.” He himself has not played any game for two years. At least not at the professional level.

He begins to swipe busily on his phone. Guneat conjures pictures and videos of a football match between a team of refugees and the amateurs of Blauw Zwart. “That was last week in Wassenaar. Look, this is when we played a match in the stadium of HFC Haarlem. Do you see the number 14? That’s me!”

In the Netherlands, he would prefer to find a job in the sports sector. But his biggest dream is to return to a peaceful Syria. “Then I will be able to play football again for my club.”

How Soccer Without Borders can help young refugees and immigrants adjust: here.

Fahd Saleh: Syrian goalkeeper rebuilding his life and career as a refugee in England: here.

From the Spanish civil war to today’s Calais crisis, clubs and fans have a history of support for those fleeing war, says STEVE SWEENEY: here.

As growing numbers of refugees flee imperialist wars in the Middle East, the EU is preparing draconian attacks on democratic rights to prevent them from coming to Europe: here.

The commander of NATO armed forces said Tuesday that Russia, Syria and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were using the refugees streaming out of Syria into Europe as weapons against European countries. Using more restrained language than Donald Trump or European neo-fascists attacking refugees from Syria, US General Philip Breedlove voiced a similar opinion, declaring, “Europe faces the daunting challenge of mass migration spurred by state instability and state collapse, a migration that masks the movement of criminals, terrorists, and foreign fighters”: here.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sought to justify her policy of erecting new walls around “Fortress Europe” with humanitarian phrases—most recently in a Sunday talk show. On Tuesday, she adopted a very different tone. At a press conference with Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković in Berlin, she commented on the refugee crisis in Greece and the Balkans with the brutality associated with Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Horst Seehofer, or officials of the nationalist AfD (Alternative for Germany): here.

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