Za'atari Enables Khaled to Pursue his Dream Again

Wednesday 27 November 2013


For three years, 19-year-old Khaled played the position of mid-fielder on a professional football team in his home country Syria. His team participated in regional and national football tournaments across the country.  Football was his passion.

“Ever since I was a little child I had a passion for football. I played football day and night. My day was incomplete, without me kicking the ball,” said Khaled who has been a resident of Za’atari refugee camp for the last eight months.

 Nearly 16 months ago,  outside a mosque in Syria, Khaled was shot in his leg.

“I was on my way to Friday prayers with some friends, when armed men stopped us right outside the mosque demanding that we go back home,” he shared.  A fight had broken out between them and other men coming to pray.

“It got violent and that’s when I got shot in my left leg,” continued Khaled, “it’s my dominant leg in football.”

This tragic incident left Khaled devastated and almost certain he would never be able to play football again.

He shared “My injury affected me psychologically more than anything, I would have preferred to have died in that shooting.”

Khaled underwent three surgeries back in Syria, and after checking with doctors in Jordan, his leg required one more procedure to fully heal. Having left his parents behind in Syria, Khaled escaped to Jordan with his married older brother and his family. He explained that his main reason for leaving Syria was to be able to complete the treatment for his leg.

Three weeks after arriving at the camp and seeing camp doctors, Khaled registered at Save the Children’s Multi-Activitiy Centre (MAC) as he heard there was a gym and football pitch.

“I really liked the services offered at the centre, so I started coming everyday,” he said, “At first, I used to only use the gym and then just watch the children play football, because that’s as close as I could get to the game and they gave me hope that I would play again one day.”

The coaches and staff working at the MAC supported Khaled, followed up with his doctor visits, and helped him get back on track. Khaled finally kicked a ball for the first time again, one year after the incident.

“Only in Za’atari was I able to play football again. This program gave me motivation to practice and play again.  I spend around three hours at the MAC each day, whether it’s the gym, classes or out on the pitch training to play like I used to,” explained Khaled.

Save the Children’s football pitch not only provides a space for young males to exercise but offers them life skills through the sports they play. On the pitch the children learn the importance of teamwork, conflict resolution, communication skills, and time management while enjoying a fun game of sports.

“I was somewhat familiar with these skills in Syria but coming here, I learned to focus on implementing these skills like teamwork and cooperation during the game,” shared Khaled, “on this football pitch is where I found support, and that’s exactly what I needed to overcome the psychological effects of my injury.”

Khaled’s dream is to one day go back to Syria, play football with his old teameates and compete in tournaments across the country and added, “What I have here in Za’atari is the closest thing to my dream.”