Football is universal: Why women in Danish asylum centres are taking up football

Author: Mette Mølgaard

This article is part of Changing the Narrative. Articles in this series are written by student or early career journalists who took part in The Local’s training course on solutions-focused migration reporting. Find out more about the project here.

Afifa Alqhadev is 46 years old. She comes from Syria, but now she lives at Sandholm, an asylum centre north of Copenhagen in Denmark, with her husband and their two kids. This is their home now. For how long they do not yet know, but at least while their case is being processed by Danish authorities.

In the first nine months of this year 1,137 people applied for asylum in Denmark. Like Alqhadev, many of them are from Syria. Upon reaching Denmark and applying for residence they are housed in shelters where they can remain for many months while waiting for their future to be decided.

This is why Asylum United decided to organise football training at asylum centres around Denmark. Since 2012, the group’s volunteers have knocked on doors weekly to ask women to play football – or just play around outside – with them.

“We just want to give the women an hour of something different than what they are used to at the asylum centre. We want to create a community, where the women can meet and have a good time together. A haven. We are their friends, someone coming to help them out in a tough environment, talking with them about how they are feeling, and then we start to get to know their kids,” Winther says.

Learn more