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Welcome to Football: how Borussia Dortmund help give refugees hope

The Bundesliga club is among two dozen who have enthusiastically taken up a German Football League initiative that uses sport to help refugees integrate within the local community

In the shadow of the towering stands of Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion just up the road, 16 refugees from around the world are engaged in a frenetic game of football. After a particularly heavy challenge, Shamil Ilqasim, a 19-year-old Yazidi from northern Iraq, limps to the sideline with a beaming smile across his face. “I’ve just hurt my leg but I’ll be back on soon, don’t worry,” Shamil, who is wearing a Dortmund shirt and shorts combined with Hertha Berlin socks, assures me.

He is part of the Welcome to Football initiative that was instigated by the German Football League (DFL) in September 2015 and has led to 24 of the country’s professional clubs running similar schemes to this one. In conjunction with the local amateur side TSC Eintracht Dortmund and with funding from the DFL and the German Children and Youth Foundation, the Bundesliga club’s BVB Foundation has helped to create a project that is now in its third year and allows a group of refugees aged between 18 and 20 to attend a weekly training session at TSC’s stadium, where they also receive a free meal beforehand and a German lesson afterwards.

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