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Press Centre (2/2014)

Syrian and Turkish children hand-in-hand with the footballers

Usame says that he supports Gaziantepspor in Turkey, but is also a fan of Barcelona. ©UNICEF/Turkey-2014/Yurtsever
GAZIANTEP, Turkey, February 2014 - “It is the first time in my life that I have watched a game in the stadium. I am excited and so happy.” These words belong to Usema Hamso  from Aleppo, who is 13 years old and studying at 8th grade in primary school. Together with ten other Syrian children now living in Nizip 2 camp, in Turkey’s Gaziantep province, he has been chosen to watch the Super League match between Gaziantepspor and Beşiktaş of Istanbul in the Şehit Kamil Ocak Stadium. Usema and his friends are not only here to watch the game; they also sent a message of peace to the whole world during the ceremony held before the kick-off, when they walked out onto the pitch hand-in-hand with Turkish children and the footballers of both teams. 

Usame says that he supports Gaziantepspor in Turkey, but is also a fan of Barcelona. His favorite footballers are Messi and Neymar, both of Barcelona, and Raul, the veteran of Real Madrid. Usame has six brothers and sisters. His greatest dream is to be a successful doctor.

Before the game, UNICEF Turkey met the managers of both teams. Slaven Bilic, the Beşiktaş manager, who comes from Croatia, is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. “The education of the children is the most crucial issue,” he said. For them to receive better quality education, please support UNICEF.” “We are ready to provide full support for Syrian children,” declared Gaziantepspor manager Sergen Yalçın.  

In addition, two footballers from Gaziantepspor, Bekir Ozan Has and Haris Medunjanin, and two from Beşiktaş, Tolga Zengin and Veli Kavlak, appealed to all fans and football lovers to support UNICEF by wearing UNICEF T-shirts and hats.

A meaningful football night

The footballers of the two sides showed their social responsibility by taking the field hand-in-hand with Turkish and Syrian children. In addition, the visiting team, Beşiktaş, supported the campaign launched for Syrian children by unfolding a banner bearing the words “I Need You”. The match took place on Friday February 7th.

The Syrian children, both boys and girls, were chosen by the representatives of the Prime Minister Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) at Nizip 2 camp. Before the children left the stadium, we also had time to speak to Iman Latuf, an 11 year-old Syrian girl who fled from Aleppo to Turkey with her family about four months ago. She has three brothers and sisters. Her favourite subjects are Arabic and Maths. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up. This was also the first time Iman had had the chance to watch a professional football match. Did she enjoy it? “Yes,” she answered, with a smile.

 “I support Gaziantepspor and Barcelona,” Iman went on, “I would like to thank UNICEF and the camp managers for creating this opportunity for us.” And she and her friends returned to their camp tired, but happy.

Story and photos by Ayberk Yurtsever

UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org