The southern end of the camp had been bulldozed by the French authorities but it was here Dr Doidge said he found hope: “Within that are there is a space with two goal posts at either end and a load of children kicking a ball around. And there’s laughter and there’s people thinking ‘this is something normal’. This was something quite remarkable.”
Dr Doidge, a volunteer at the camp, said he was humbled when he realised the only skill he had to offer was talking about football and people’s favourite players. “Who’s the better player Messi or Ronaldo?” That was the common language, he said, a physical language that everyone could understand.
Football, he said, was not a save-all solution but it has an important role. And, he said, it was the responsibility of clubs, fans, federations and government to make it more accessible to refugees.
A main outcomes of the conference was a declaration ‘ Athens Principles on the Right to Participate in Sport’ to encourage football clubs, federations and non-government organisations to ensure that everyone, particularly refugees, can participate in sport.
You can watch Dr Doidge’s presentation on YouTube.