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Ten refugee footballers from Eritrea who sought asylum after a 2015 World Cup qualifier were back on the pitch last week in a tournament arranged by the Botswana player association to show solidarity with their situation.

Footballers Union Botswana (FUB) organized the one-day competition at the Dukwi refugee camp in north Botswana to coincide with World Refugee Day on June 20.

The 10 footballers refused to return home after playing a national-team match in Botswana. They are living at the camp, which houses more than 2,000 refugees from countries including Congo, Namibia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

“The footballers can probably never return to their country as they are not safe there,” FUB secretary general Kgosana Masaseng said.

“We tried to bring back joy to them with what they love most, playing football.”

“The tournament was a massive success, so many people were happy and singing.”

FUB refugees 1 275 300Onalethata Tshekiso, a former Botswana national-team player who is president of FUB, was among three teams of former players who took part in the tournament against a refugee team, which included the Eritreans.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR uses World Refugee Day to raise awareness for millions of people who have been forced to flee and acknowledge their strength, courage, and perseverance. FUB got support from the UNHCR and the Botswana government to organize the tournament.

During the event, various former players engaged with children in the camp to educate them about the dangers of alcohol, drugs, HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancy, as these are all serious problems among youth.

These former players are part of FUB’s outreach program and they have been trained for these meetings.

“We hope that we can help refugees join our society. We have received permission to continue visiting the camp,” said Masaseng.

 

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Among the spectators was Assistant Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development Dikgang Philip Makgalemele (second person left)

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All players

 

Action photo: FUB president Onalethata Tshekiso in action against Dukwi refugees team