Goal Click Refugees: Ismail M. Abdalla
Faulu Production is a community-based organization supporting refugees, disadvantaged youth and women, and vulnerable children. Faulu Production organise football tournaments in order to promote peaceful coexistence among different communities.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your football life?
My name is Ismail Mahamud Abdalla. I am 29 years old and originally from Kalemie in Tanganyika province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I am currently volunteering as a Program Manager with Faulu Production, a community-based organization supporting refugees, disadvantaged youth and women, and vulnerable children.
I was not born into a football family, but later on considered football as my favourite game. I dreamt football would change my life not only through entertainment, but as the activity through which I would be earning a living once I expanded my talent. Thus, I started playing football when I was six years old until I was 22, when I broke my left hand while a goalkeeper.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
There are different people of various backgrounds; however, they share one talent which is football. Most of the players come from the refugee community. They are Congolese, Burundian, South Sudanese, and Darfurian. Their stories are so shocking since they fled their countries to escape atrocities of which they were victims.
Most photos were taken at a football field during the competitions organized by Faulu Production in order to promote peaceful coexistence among different communities. However, a few of the photos were taken at individuals’ homes when the kids were playing football for entertainment.
The photos try to portray that refugees are real people who can enjoy the same full rights as others regardless of their status. Moreover, they portray the social cohesion and coexistence that is found among the refugee communities through games and football.
Can you tell us your personal story?
I was born into an Islamic family in polygamy with four wives and my mother being the last wife. As the fifth and last born to my mother’s womb I used to travel with her wherever she went. Unlike my mother, our father did not want us to socialize with people from diverse backgrounds for fear that we may imitate cultures that were not ours. However, things appeared to be in my favour when I started my preschool and primary school at the Methodist Mission at Kalemie. I met many friends with whom we could create a family in school that did not rely on any cultural nor religious perspectives. Through the many qualified teachers and volunteer missionaries, everyone was able to detect his or her talent and know how to expand it for the betterment of his or her future.
As I was a good speaker who could represent others, I was advised to pursue storytelling (journalism) and joined a football club where I played as a goalkeeper from 1995 until the war of the liberation broke out. My family flew to the mountains, where we had no chance to learn or play football, since we were obliged to remain quiet for fear of being attacked by the rebels or the deserting government forces.
One year later we returned home though the security was not yet restored. We were recommended to take a ship up to Mpulungu in Zambia, where we lived for some time until repatriation in 2009. There I got the chance to continue learning and at the same time play football for both schools and in leagues where our small club won three local cups. The toughest game that I will never forget during my lifetime is when we played a Final in September 2009 with a Tanzanian club known as “Kasanga Boys” just on the border between Zambia and Tanzania (Rukwa region). I was goalkeeper and captain of our club “FC Simba”. It reached a penalty shootout, where I was able to save three penalty kicks and we won the cup. Unfortunately, I broke my left hand when saving the last penalty.
Did you play football before you came to Kenya? If so, who with?
I played football before I came to Kenya with various small clubs in Zambia, Tanzania, and DRC.
Why is football important to you and your community?
Football is important to my life since it is enjoyable, it physically builds our bodies, and creates job opportunities. It brings people together and thus creates coexistence and social interaction, it serves as the way for community mobilization and participation.
Do you play football now with any Kenyan people? How do you find the Kenyan people?
I play football with Kenyans, though not often like before. Kenyans are good people with a good cultural background. They welcome everyone into their community. They are also talented in many ways, but mostly on Olympics and marathon running. But for football they may be a bit behind some of their neighbours.
What ambitions do you have for the future?
My ambition for my future life is to get settled or resettled, which would enable me to enjoy a free life, have access to land, movement, doing business, and other rights as the nationals do - unlike here in a refugee camp.
Can you tell us the personal story of anyone else in the photographs?
The young girl is a South Sudanese national born and raised in Kakuma refugee camp. Her family fled from Jonglei State at the eruption of the war in 1992. She is a footballer and energizer. She sees her only opportunity for her life in playing football. She has been participating in different competitions organized by the UNHCR and Lutheran World Federation (LWF). She is a defender but she is a victim to stereotypes, since in their community girls are not allowed to participate in such kind of games, as they are only for boys.
The tall guy is a Congolese man. He is married with two kids. He has been playing football since he was four years until now (he is 34). Some of his successes include running an organization advocating for the protection of the environment (USEC) and being the winner of the Kakuma Premier League Cup.
My friend in a blue shirt is from DR Congo (South Kivu province) and is married with two kids. We learnt together at primary level and met again here in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. He has been a primary school teacher for six years and is a footballer playing number 8, 9, or 10. He has been living in Kenya for nine years. The horrible thing that I cannot forget about him is that two days after this competition his wife passed away during maternity. Now he is only raising his two young kids alone.
The young man is a Sudanese national. They fled to Kakuma to escape being kidnaped in Sudan (in Darfur).
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