11 July 2023

Football provides escapism and friendship for 140 Afghan children

In preparation for the Women’s World Cup – which offers a precious opportunity to pray for our persecuted family – discover the role football is playing in the lives on young Afghan refugees…

A football initiative has given enormous joy to Afghan refugees – and led many people to Jesus

To millions of people around the world, football is a wonderful source of escapism and friendship – and that’s certainly the case for some 140 young Afghan refugees in a country neighbouring Afghanistan. 

“We could see there was an opportunity to reach out to the Afghan refugees and support them,” says Brother Ismael*, an Open Doors local partner. “The situation for them is very difficult. In our region, governments do not officially recognise the presence of such a large number of refugees and don’t provide the necessary social support to them.” 

It’s having a hugely damaging impact on children, who often witness the stress and hardship of daily life brings on their families; they see the hopelessness in their parents’ eyes and watch their siblings go to bed hungry. Some children have even considered suicide to escape from it all. 

“The shocking reality is that three out of every ten of these refugee children say they want to end their lives because they spend most of their time indoors out of fear,” adds Brother Ishmael. 

Football provides escapism and friendship for 140 Afghan children

Football, fun and faith

Against this backdrop, Brother Ishmael had an idea that’s well and truly kicked on – five times a week, around 140 boys and girls meet on a local Astro turf pitch to exercise, have fun and build friendships. By pulling on a Messi or Neymar shirt, or wearing the colours of Afghanistan, the time together allows these children to again feel normal – and happy!

The initiative’s impact reaches wider than football. Weekly Bible study groups have been formed, as has a house church after 15-20 of them gave their lives to Jesus! It’s also built trust with parents, which has led to the provision of practical support. Given that these refugees are not permitted to work, the help is invaluable. 

“We help with food packages,” continues Brother Ishmael. “These food packages help a lot of refugees survive. In addition, we distribute the necessary clothes, blankets and hygiene items. We also provide assistance for some people with medical needs.”

It’s an amazing impact and none of it would be possible without your prayers and generosity – thank you!

*Name changed for security reasons

  • Give thanks for the wonderful impact of this initiative
  • That it will continue to provide fun and friendship, and lead people to Jesus
  • That the needs of all Afghan refugees will be met.

Write today

Please give

The Women’s World Cup begins next week and features five countries on the World Watch List – Nigeria, China, Colombia, Morocco and Vietnam. We’re looking to raise prayer for our persecuted family in these countries and you can do that with our unique wall chart. Why not share the link with your family, friends and church?

Give today

Share this story

Get involved

Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus. Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.