Soccer eases life in Jordan refugee camp, until goal dispute

Wed May 13, 2015 7:34am EDT
 
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By Mike Collett

ZAATARI, Jordan (Reuters) - As Hiba's shot beats the goalkeeper and nestles in the back of the net she turns away, her arms raised in triumph, her face beaming with joy while her team mates scream in delight.

This, however, is no ordinary goal on an ordinary soccer pitch. For many children, this exuberance marks a return of the childhood torn from them by screams of war in the Syrian homeland they have left behind.

For 13-year-old Hiba and the girls playing soccer with her on the dusty and gravelly, yet meticulously tended field at the Zaatari refugee camp in north-west Jordan, every goal is worth celebrating. Every run, pass and move helps them forget why they are here.

Because everyone, Hiba included, has lost someone close to them in the Syrian war, which has cost around 200,000 lives, including 11,500 children.

"I like coming here to play," she tells Reuters in a voice confident for one so young. "It helps me forget the war, the bombs, the rockets and the children who were killed and it gives me a peace of mind.

"My mother and father are here but I miss my uncle. He was sitting at home when his house was bombed and he was killed. That has made me very sad."

Hiba is among the estimated 3.8 million who have fled Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011.

  Continued...

 
Syrian refugee children play near a tent which was levelled after a heavy snowstorm at Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, February 21, 2015. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed