For #WorldRefugeeDay the Fare network has named the 2019 Refugee XI, a team featuring players from refugee backgrounds playing in both men’s and women’s football at the highest levels.
The Refugee XI celebrates the powerful contribution refugees have made to football, while highlighting the role that football can play in breaking down barriers. All of the players listed are refugees, or the children of refugees, who have overcome unimaginable circumstances to excel as footballers.
Piara Powar, Executive Director of Fare, said, “Refugees contribute to every aspect of life, across the world, and our Refugee XI is a testament to their position in football. We stand together with them to celebrate and defend their rights and their presence amongst us.”
World Refugee Day - Fare 2019 Refugee XI
Steven Mandanda, Marseille, France
Now a World Cup winner, Mandanda and his family were forced to leave Kinshasa in the former Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, during the reign of Mobutu Sese Seko, and migrated to Liege in Belgium.
Victor Moses, Chelsea, Nigeria
Moses was raised in Kaduna, Nigeria. His father and mother were attacked in their home and killed when riots swept in 2002. He was told of the news when playing football in the street, before being sent to England where he was taken in by foster parents in south London.
Siad Haji, San Jose Earthquakes, USA
Haji moved from Kenya to USA with his family in 2004. His parents had originally moved to Kenya to escape violence in their native Somalia, before moving again to settle in a refugee community in New Hampshire.
Khalida Popal, Afghanistan
An iconic figure for women’s football in Afghanistan, Popal was captain of the Afghanistan women’s national team, but was eventually forced to flee her home country as it was not safe for women to play football. She moved to Denmark as a refugee and set up Girl Power Organization, which works to motivate and empower women from minority groups around Europe.
Shabnam Mobarez, Aalborg, Afghanistan
Born in Afghanistan, Mobarez fled war to move to Denmark in 2003. She started to play street football there, before being signed for a local team. She is now captain of Afghanistan’s women’s team. Both she and Khalida were instrumental in uncovering widespread sexual abuse at the Afghan FA, a scandal that has led to a lifetime FIFA ban for the former president of the Afghanistan federation.
Elizabeta Ejupi, Charlton Athletic, Albania
Ejupi’s family fled Kosovo for London to escape war when she was three years old. She joined Charlton’s Centre of Excellence, rising through the ranks to become an international for Albania’s national team. “There were massacres, killings. We left to survive,” she said.
Luka Modric, Real Madrid, Croatia
As a child Modrić was forced to flee his hometown Zadar in the former Yugoslavia. His family lived in hostels during the Croatian war of independence in the early 90s. In 2018 he won the Ballon D’Or, an award given to the world’s best player, after leading Croatia to the World Cup final.
Fatmire Alushi, Germany
Alushi is a refugee who was forced to move with her family from the former Yugoslavia across Europe to North-Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. She made her debut for Germany women’s national team at 17 and became one of the country’s star players. “If you want to understand me and my life, you must immerse yourself in the history of the former Yugoslavia,” she writes in her autobiography, Mein Tor ins Leben – Vom Flüchtling zur Weltmeisterin.
Awer Mabil, FC Midtjylland, Denmark
A player with a remarkable story, Mabil was born in a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, after his parents fled civil war in Sudan. "We built a hut out of mud,” Mabil has said, “probably the size of one bedroom in a normal house in the Western world, as you would call it. There were four of us living in it – we got food from the UN once a month.” In 2006 he was relocated to Australia with his family, and he overcame persistent racism and other challenges to become an Australian international footballer, scoring on his debut for the country last year.
Ode Fulutudilu, Malaga CF, South Africa
Became the first South African woman to sign for a top-flight club in Spain when she joined Malaga in January. Fulutudilu was only three years old when her family was forced to flee an unstable DR Congo for Angola, before moving further south to Cape Town, South Africa due to civil war tensions in Angola.
Nadia Nadim, Paris Saint-Germain, Denmark
Nadim left her native Afghanistan as a child after her father, a general in the Afghan army, was murdered by the Taliban. Together with her mother and sisters Nadim escaped the country using forged passports, ending up in a refugee centre in Denmark. She developed her football skills and became a Danish international. “There were a lot of kids from different areas ... Arabs, Iraqi, Bosnian, Somalian, nobody could speak the language, and no-one spoke English, so the only way we communicated was with the game. That is what I still love about the game,” Nadim has recalled of her early days in Denmark.
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