Refugees and asylum seekers across the globe tell their stories through disposable cameras in Goal Click’s latest series
Goal Click Refugees allows the most silenced group of people across society to tell their stories through football.
- Ruby Boddington
- 19 June 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Goal Click is a project which allows communities to tell their stories through football by sending out disposable cameras around the world. The project has been running since 2014 and its founders Matthew Barrett and Ed Jones have spent the past six years facilitating stories from footballer players, coaches, referees and fans across the globe; male and female, young and old, professional and amateur. In turn, the duo has built up an incredible archive surveying humanity in all its forms and the connecting powers of the beautiful game.
Ahead of World Refugee Day tomorrow, Goal Click has launched a new series in collaboration with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, which sees refugees and asylum seekers around the world document their personal stories and experiences through football in refugee settlements, urban situations, and playing among their host communities. Following the tried and tested Goal Click format, each participant was given a disposable camera to capture not only the impact football has on their lives, but the realities of living as a displaced person.
“We have been gradually building Goal Click Refugees for almost three years,” Matthew tells us, explaining that early on in Goal Click’s lifespan it became clear that “refugees and asylum seekers were often the most unheard and silenced group of people in societies around the world.” Through its ethos of self-creation, Goal Click’s process, therefore, provides the perfect opportunity to hear those voices, to provide agency and a means of expression to those so often ignored.
An important aspect of the project is to challenge the widely believed portrayal that most displaced people travel to North America or Europe. “It was really important for us to show the full range of refugee and asylum seeker experiences around the world, given there are more than 70 million displaced people globally,” Matthew continues. “The narrative of refugee issues can often be quite at odds with the reality that most refugees are hosted by countries in Africa and the Middle East, not Europe or North America. Goal Click Refugees tries to show all these scenarios, from displaced Syrians in Jordanian refugee camps to Sudanese and Congolese refugees in Kenya, alongside the experiences of refugees who have arrived in Europe.”
So far, the series features intimate, moving and uplifting imagery from more than 25 male and female refugees across five continents. With the campaign set to continue through the coming year, building towards a physical exhibition during the Euros 2021, in total, there are expected to be more than 60 refugee stories in 20 countries published.
The beauty of the series, as with all of Goal Click’s previous iterations is the way it uses football as a means to connect people. It’s something Matthew alludes to, saying “framing a difficult subject like this through football allows people to understand someone else’s story in a way that might not otherwise be possible. In fact, they may not have been interested otherwise.” And while Goal Click isn’t suggesting that football is a “magic formula that makes everything better, it can play an important part in rebuilding lives.” It’s a sentiment expressed in the many, many interviews already live on Goal Click’s website, with many more to follow.
When asked about his personal highlights from the project thus far, Matthew firmly states it has been the response from the female refugees involved. “The photos from our Syrian girls in Zaatari refugee camps are both powerful and beautiful. They are so intimate; they could not have been taken by anyone other than a teammate,” he says. “We also had four Afghan girls take part in Austria and Australia. Their stories of breaking down barriers and overcoming resistance from their families and the community, to them playing football are very inspiring. They have become football managers, coaches, and referees.”
Lastly, he remarks that it’s important to note that the project has been largely influenced by the incredible story of Jacob Viera. A Kenyan, Jacob was a professional footballer who was targeted by drug smugglers when he was a youth player. “Ultimately, he was the victim of a vicious attack, where he was electrocuted in his own home and was very close to being killed. Shortly after this, he travelled to the UK for a football trial with Newcastle United in 2014 and was advised to claim asylum, which he did,” Matthew says. He later moved to Liverpool and, after five years, was granted humanitarian protection. “Whilst this ended his professional playing career, he is on track to become one of the first professional referees from a refugee background in the UK.”
In most cases, Goal Click has been connected to refugee communities through NGOs, which so far has included large organisations such as Unicef and the British Red Cross but also smaller local charities including Football United in Australia, Green Kordofan in South Sudan, and Balon Mundial in Italy.
GalleryGoal Click Refugees
Australia – Football United, Shegofa Hassani
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.