"It is a dream to play football in Orange"
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During the EURO UNITY Cup, the Netherlands will be represented by 8 football players who came to the Netherlands as refugees. The selection day for the Dutch team took place last Friday in Zeist. "I came here from the AZC Haarlem to play football.
"Football helps you to forget your worries for a while."
"You are not alone," says professional football star Farkhunda Muhtaj to everyone in the hall. She herself fled Afghanistan and grew up in Canada. Now she plays for the women's football club Fortuna Sittard and is captain of the Orange team of refugees heading to Frankfurt. "Football makes you forget your worries for a while. Above all, have fun today!"
Cheerful and slightly tense, 200 football players gather in Zeist. With sports bags and football boots in hand, everyone takes their seats in the large hall of the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB). The hall is packed with people of all nationalities and stories of their own. But they all have one goal: to be selected for the Dutch team for the EURO UNITY Cup.
The EURO UNITY Cup 2023 will be held in Frankfurt on 27, 28 and 29 June. UEFA and UNHCR's official European Refugee Championship. The Netherlands will be represented by a specially selected team consisting of 8 refugees and 3 Dutch nationals. The team was selected last Friday at KNVB Campus in Zeist.
"I learned to play football on the streets"
After the speeches, it is time for action. A short warm-up on the field already shows that there is a lot of talent around, including 20-year-old Hadi. He is wearing a familiar orange shirt with the number 14. "I'm a big Cruijff fan!"
When Hadi was 10, he started playing football in Iraq. "We did not have football pitches, we played in the streets instead. I also watched loads of videos of good football players to get even better myself. It is a dream to play football in Orange!"
"I cannot keep up with the young players anymore!"
Shahab is 34 years old and is from Iran. He stands on the sidelines encouraging his team. "I came here from the AZC Haarlem to play football." Shahab himself looks up to players like Arjen Robben and Dennis Bergkamp the most. "Robben and Bergkamp are also a bit older, just like me. I cannot keep up with the young players here anymore!"
"We are going to win today!"
The talented player Alexandr from Ukraine is only 18 years old. "I was eager to come and play football today. When I arrived here, I met other Ukrainians. We immediately set up a team". This day is extra fun for Alexandr. He played football to a high level in Ukraine."I am happy to be in the Netherlands now. The Netherlands is doing a lot for us. We have shelter and I go to school." Confidence is great: "We are going to win today!"
The refugee team's coach is René van Rijswijk. He himself had a career in professional football. It is now up to him to take the best players to Frankfurt. On 28 June, they will compete for the cup.