Manitoba

Weekly soccer games help bring refugees in Winnipeg together

A weekly game of soccer is helping to bring refugees in Winnipeg together. About 25 refugees have been going to the University of Winnipeg RecPlex every Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. since January.

'They feel amazing,' says volunteer counsellor with Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council

A weekly game of soccer is helping to bring refugees in Winnipeg together. 1:55
A weekly game of soccer is helping to bring refugees in Winnipeg together.
About 25 refugees get together weekly for soccer at the University of Winnipeg RecPlex. (CBC)

"They feel amazing," said Fadel Alshawwa, who's originally from Palestine and came to Winnipeg as a refugee last year. "All of them, even if they move out from Welcome Place, they still keep coming."

Alshawwa now works as a volunteer counsellor with the refugee settlement agency Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, which temporarily houses new arrivals at its Welcome Place residence. 

About 25 refugees have been coming together at the University of Winnipeg RecPlex every Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. since January. The program is a partnership between Welcome Place and the Aurora Family Health Centre.

Hassan Ali Al Bash comes to the RecPlex to hang out with friends. (CBC)
Hassan Ali Al Bash arrived in Winnipeg in January with his family. Although soccer isn't his favourite sport, he comes anyway.

"He came here to have fun," Alshawwa said, translating for Al Bash. "He has friends here. They are coming to play and he's coming with them."

Muuxi Adam came to Canada from Somalia by himself when he was 16 and now works as the newcomer community development co-ordinator at Aurora Family Health Centre.

He said soccer helps newcomers connect.
Muuxi Adam helped organize the soccer night. (CBC)

"It's not just soccer, because some of them will not play actually. They will just sit and watch and you wonder why that's happening is because they want to be part of that bigger picture," he said.

"They exchange information — where do you live now? How's that neighbourhood? Is it safe? Is there rental housing available? Because I'm living in temporary housing, and I'd like to move where you are. Then they find someone that they relate to."

Alshawwa said the program is open to anyone and will run for as long as the soccer complex's schedule allows.