Soccer Star and Community Leader in Syria Camp Inspires Change through Sports

In northeast Syria, Youssef, a young Iraqi man, champions sports as a way to give back to his community. Years ago, Youssef was a successful soccer player in his hometown of Mosul before he had to flee in 2014. He immediately felt the absence of sports when he arrived at the displacement camp where he lives with his family in Syria.

Youssef and his neighbors had been playing sports together on a makeshift soccer field on agricultural land outside the camp. It posed numerous challenges, from limited access to its small size – and it wasn’t safe for children. He knew playing sports was healthy and uplifting for his friends, but they didn’t have the right space.

boys play on a soccer field

A new soccer field in a displacement camp in northeast Syria became a space for children and adults alike to play sports and socialize.

In November 2022, Blumont constructed a soccer field for residents of the camp. Our team provides critical services to tens of thousands of people who live in camps in the region. We distribute household items, organize community awareness sessions, and improve camp infrastructure.

The new field, spanning 1,000 square meters, is enclosed by a protective fence and is illuminated for night-time use so that camp residents can play safely. The field has sparked a love for soccer in the community and fostered a sense of belonging.

Youssef noted that children and adults alike have transformed since the soccer field opened.  Children have a place to experience childhood. Adults have a place to decompress after working or long days managing life in the camp. And the elderly have a place for leisurely walks and socializing.


two men hand out soccer uniforms to a young man

Youssef, center, was selected as a youth leader in the camp. He organized several activities related to soccer, including providing new uniforms and shoes for the camp’s soccer players, hoping to motivate them to play regularly and take pride in their sport.

“My life changed for the better after building the field, as I’ve seen an improvement in my mental and physical health as a result of practicing sports,” Youssef said. “I am also happy to see the children playing happily on the field.”

Now, Youssef is mobilizing to take advantage of the new space. Over the past year, he has eagerly participated in Blumont’s youth-focused initiatives. He was selected as a youth leader and received training in conflict resolution and leadership. With these new skills, he led three youth campaigns aimed at enhancing community cohesion and well-being, including cleaning the soccer grounds, coordinating the distribution of new sports attire, and forming local soccer teams. The players were proud to receive new clothing and shoes to play in.

“My happiness depends on making the people around me happy,” he said.


a group of young men stand on a soccer field under banners for preventing violence against women

Through his leadership position, Youssef organized a soccer match in honor of preventing violence against women.

Youssef has also used his leadership position to address important issues in his community through soccer. He worked with our protection team to organize a soccer match dedicated to preventing violence against women. This initiative gave light to the challenges women in their community face while showing the men’s dedication to women’s equality.

Youssef continues to inspire others to get outside and play. He views sports as a way to foster empathy, cooperation, and mutual respect while being active.

“I advise everyone to practice sports, as sports activate the body and benefit the mind, which contributes to improving our interactions with our family members and members of society,” he said.