From the 26th of January to the 1st of February, in collaboration with the UEFA Children’s Foundation, we organised the first eSport tournament in the Syrian refugee camp of Zaatari, Jordan: the Refugees Esport Cup! Far ahead of cinema, music and literature, video games are the world’s most popular cultural asset. Everywhere, refugees too should have access to it. Inaugurated by our sponsor, Augustin Trapenard, this tournament brought together 146 players aged 10 to 18 for a week.
Twenty kilometres from the Syrian border, the Zaatari camp now has 70,000 refugees – mainly from the town of Deraa – who have fled the civil war, including nearly 40,000 children and teenagers.
Last month, together with the UEFA Foundation for Children, we organised the first ever eSport tournament there. It brought together 146 players between the ages of 10 and 18, some of whom were disabled, who had been training since December. It was a tournament that obviously included the girls, who were equally trained, passionate and motivated to win.
Video games are a vector of social cohesion. Whether they collaborate or confront each other, whatever their stories may be, players can enjoy themselves and escape from their daily lives. It stimulates the imagination and immerses them in other worlds, just as a novel, a film or a comic strip can do.
“The hardest thing about living in the camp is living in the camp. This event is a good way to disconnect from the daily routine. It helps us to keep the links between us. It’s also an opportunity to get to know new people, new things.”, Omar, 17 years old.
” Video Games teach us team spirit and solidarity. It’s important that girls play these kinds of games too.”, Majdolen, 14.
“We used to watch the football championship on TV. It’s great to be able to play it now, with the same techniques !”, says 18-year-old Mohamad.
“Playing PlayStation with your friends is a way to get rid of your energy!”, Mohamad, 15-year-old Syrian.
Broadcasted live on the big screen, the final matches brought together about 100 young people and parents in the camp cinema. Among them, in the audience, the father of Sham and Arwa, two young participants:
“This tournament allowed Arwa, deaf and dumb, to meet new friends. I see her happy to be part of a team.”
“The PlayStation is a stress reliever for them. After playing, they are much calmer at home. Our children also have a better understanding of what it means to have a purpose in life. It’s not just a game, it builds self-confidence and a taste for challenge”, adds Ibtissam, a player’s mother.
After a week of competition and 250 matches played, our big winners are… Fahid and Mohamad, in the 10-14 and 15-18 years old categories! Sham, as for her, won the women’s cup of this first tournament. Congratulations to them and to all the participants of this tournament! Thanks also to the mediators who have accompanied them every day for the past two months so that they could train.
Since 2007, we have been working tirelessly to promote access to education and information for those who are deprived of it – from refugee camps in Bangladesh to rural areas in France – and to make the right to culture a fundamental human right.
In thirteen years, the association has reached more than six million people in fifty countries. In the Middle East, we are responding to the Syrian crisis by promoting access to information in refugee and displaced persons camps in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.