A summer football program supported by legendary French Armenian footballer Youri Djorkaeff for unaccompanied children, aged 12-17, who are currently accommodated in shelters in Athens opts to pave the way for greater integration between refugees and host communities through sports, .
The eight-week program, launched in Athens in June, is supported by Djorkaeff and several organizations.
"I think one of the best things in sports is that you do not really need to understand, to talk or to communicate, because as soon the ball starts rolling on the ground everybody understands the game," Djorkaeff սաիդ after a recent press conference in the Greek capital.
"In my life I had the opportunity to give back to the people, I started my foundation in US, in New York. We started with small programs in different neighborhoods, because there were no sports at school," he stressed.
Through his foundation, he said he wants to ensure that every child's right to play is respected, regardless of the social status, abilities, faith, gender or origin.
During the press conference, he said that he knew from firsthand what is to be a migrant. His family ended up in France through migration. His father, former player Jean Djorkaeff, is of Kalmyk and Polish descent and his mother is from Armenia.
"Two years ago, I was watching a documentary about the road of the migrants in Calais. I realized that in Europe there is a huge crisis and it was my wish to come back in Europe and help these kids," he said.
Greece remains one of the major entry points into Europe for migrants.
An estimated 23,500 refugee and migrant children are currently in the country. A total of 3,510 are without the care and protection of a family member or guardian, according to UNICEF's latest data.
More than 200 refugee and migrant children, boys and girls, take part in daily football trainings, as well as a series of educational and recreational activities each Friday throughout the duration of the project, in two locations in the center of the city, provided by the Municipality of Athens.
Through the program children learn about the values of sportsmanship such as, cooperation, leadership, and teamwork and at the same time enhance their social and emotional skills.
"You take confidence when you start to shoot good with your right leg and good with your left. You start to have confidence in your life too. And that is what it is important," Djorkaeff said.