“Sports has not only been played for therapy and entertainment , but has also been used as a uniting factor”.
Bidi bidi refugee settlement, which is found in Uganda’s northern district of Yumbe, is home to more thanover 227,000 refugees who come mainly from South Sudan. These former refugees have had their hopes for a happy life rekindled by sports activities.
On every normal day from 4 to 5 p.m, it is common to see the young and youthful, jogging – en route to various sports grounds with in the settlement. But while the young and youthful boys and girls throng different playing grounds in the settlement, spectators who make up both young and and old persons are seen snaking their way to these sports grounds to secure vantage positions for a better view of the action while the talented boys and girls entertain with their different athletic abilities.
”Sports has helped the refugees to come together”, Said Steven Aaparibwong, a teacher and games master at Yoyo Primary School in Bidibidi Zone 3. He also said that some of the refugees who never saw eye to eye in their home country can now manage to shake hands, which is a big achievement.
“Sports in the settlement has helped to Improve refugees’ behavior those who isolated themselves due to trauma and other vices can now blend in ”. Steven Aparibwong said.
According to UNHCR, there are over 30 ethnic groups in the settlement with different cultures and religion. It is also important to note. The conflict in South Sudan that drove many of the refugees from their home country is partly based on ethnic difference’s.
Asiyu Bashir, who said he wants to be like Eden Hhazard of Real Madrid, said football enables him to exercise and keep fit and also to make new friends who are not Muosliem . Another of the young boys, who was happy to provide only his first name,Rogers , put’s on a special jersey to the play ground which has the writings ‘Harmonious co- existence is possible.’
Laol Michael, who said he wants to be like Paul Pogba of Manchester United, said football unites the refugees and gives them a chance to work with others. Laol dreams of playing for Manchester United in the future. To forge a new beginning, the all- smiling refugee and his newly found friends have started their own so-called ‘Bidi bidi United’ team.
However, it’s not only the men who get the action. Girls and women also have a special arrangement which enables them to play Netball . Some women also however, choose to watch the football games and cheer on as their sons, husbands, friends and brothers play on.
One challenge the refugees face is lack of enough sports equipment, which limits the number of available sports activities. However, the people in the settlement have made the most out of the few available sports activities to not only display high levels of discipline and , mind blowing organization as well as fun like the English premiere league.
As the football match went on between two energetic teams in July, the refugees displayed a good competitive spirit to the point that one can easily forget that they were asylum seekers.
“Sports has not only been played for therapy and entertainment, but has also been used as a uniting factor”. Said Nambohe Solomon, a staff member at Save the Children who works in the settlement. of the save the child fund.