ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan (AP) – The head of European soccer’s governing body and Jordan’s Prince Ali inaugurated a full-size soccer pitch yesterday in the kingdom’s largest camp for Syrian refugees, part of efforts to bring a sense of normalcy to those faced with open-ended exile.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin kicked a ball around with Syrian children who joyfully ran onto the facility’s artificial grass after the ribbon-cutting.
“I love football because it helps us fill our spare time,” said Marah Khalil, a 14-year-old girl from southern Syria’s Daraa province. “It’s better to take our negative energy out with something positive like football.”
About 80,000 Syrians live in caravans in northeast Jordan’s Zaatari camp which was established in 2012, a year after the outbreak of the Syria conflict. With Syria’s civil war in its seventh year and many areas of the country devastated by fighting, refugees don’t know when they might be able to go home.
In the meantime, Zaatari’s infrastructure has evolved. A job centre opened last month and a solar power plant is under construction.
The pitch was funded in part by UEFA’s Foundation for Children and Jordan’s Asian Football Development Project, but organisers did not say how much it cost.