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Published January 19, 2023


The Ipswich Town Foundation has started a new Refugee Football initiative. 

Funded by Sport England, the free sessions started in September and to celebrate the EFL Week of Action, the programme has now been publicly launched.

The initiative runs on Mondays for adults – in partnership with Volunteering Matters – and Wednesdays for adults and people aged 16-18 – in partnership with Suffolk Refugee Support & Suffolk New College.

Town’s CEO, Mark Ashton, and captain, Sam Morsy, both visited Wednesday night’s session as part of the official launch.

“I’ve said before that the community needs to be at the forefront of everything we do, and this is a great example of that,” said Mark.

“It’s an opportunity to support a group of refugees and use the Club’s brand to bring a group of people together.

“If the Football Club can help and work to bring people together in our local community, that can only be a good thing.”

“It was brilliant to watch the lads play,” Sam added. “It was a really good turnout and you could see how much they enjoyed it. 

“They’ve been through tough times and it’s not easy circumstances for them.

“It’s invaluable really, not just for them to blow off some steam but for their mental state as well.

“The essence of what it can do is more important than football itself. Football is just 90 minutes but what it can do to people’s lives and for their wellbeing, for me, is so much more important.

“It’s a fantastic scheme.”

The programme aims to engage and provide a fun and safe environment to socialise and play football.

Selected participants also have the opportunity to obtain a coaching or refereeing qualification.

People taking part are refugees and asylum seekers who come from a range of countries including Eritrea, Syria, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom have been placed in temporary accommodation, are not allowed to work, and receive just £8 per week.

One of the participants, Kamal, said: “We play here every Wednesday evening and it makes us all happy. 

“For us to learn, it’s important that we have a coach who also helps us work on our physique. 

“When we finish playing football, you can see the effect on our mental health.

“We were grateful to see Sam for the first time face to face, too.”

Maheta Molango, CEO of the Professional Footballers’ Association was also in attendance and added: “Football is such an important tool of integration. 

“For us at the PFA, work in the community is very important and is at the centre of what we do. Being out here and seeing people enjoy themselves through football is fantastic.”

Suffolk Refugee Support also provide refugees and asylum seekers with a range of advice and activities, including employment and training support, English classes, youth work, a women’s group and football and cricket sessions.

A spokesperson for Suffolk Refugee Support added: “We’re so grateful to ITFC for supporting our weekly football sessions with local refugees and asylum seekers. 

“Many of the people we work with have had their lives turned upside down, experienced trauma, and live with high levels of stress. For two hours a week. playing football brings them together and takes their minds off day-to-day anxieties.

“Asylum seekers can spend many months in limbo, with futures full of uncertainty and subject to change at any minute. Football provides a constant as something they have enjoyed all their lives, and it’s brilliant to see people smiling and having fun together. Alongside the physical health advantages, the wellbeing benefits really are enormous.

“The structured coaching is also valuable – having someone with expertise take the time to work with them means a lot to people who don’t always receive much support. And there’s some real talent on display too!”

To learn more about Suffolk Refugee Support, click here.