O L Y M P I A C O S   1 9 2 5
O L Y M P I A C O S   1 9 2 5
“Youth Football Tournament”, a partnership between the Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors and Olympiacos

“Youth Football Tournament”, a partnership between the Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors and Olympiacos

The Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum meets Olympiacos in a joint sporting initiative in the form of the “Youth Football Tournament” that will be hosted, Monday May 29th, at the Rentis Training Center. This football tournament will be organized by the Integration and Support Unit […]

The Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum meets Olympiacos in a joint sporting initiative in the form of the “Youth Football Tournament” that will be hosted, Monday May 29th, at the Rentis Training Center.

This football tournament will be organized by the Integration and Support Unit and the Special Secretariat’s Mentoring Team, and will feature 40 unaccompanied minors, both boys and girls of diverse ethnicities, aged 15-17, along with Olympiacos Academy footballers. All 40 children will be originated from Afghanistan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Gambia, Bangladesh, Guinea, Liberia, Somalia, People’s Republic of the Congo, Mali, Tahiti, Cameroon, Siera Leone, Egypt and Syria.

The tournament is addressed to unaccompanied minors with an end to bring them in contact with their coevals through sports and, more particularly, to help them see the benefits of sports, such as collaboration, team spirit and good sportsmanship. It is noteworthy that the event shall also be attended, Monday 29/5, by representatives of 35 European clubs, in the context of ECA’s visit to Greece to examine the Olympiacos Academy’s operating model.

During a Press Conference held Thursday 25/5 at the G. Karaiskakis Stadium to announce the tournament, Olympiacos FC CSR Director Nikos Gavalas pointed out:

“It was 2 months ago when we received an invitation by the Special Secretary to discuss potentially deploying a joint action. The ideals and values Olympiacos stand for made us swiftly decide to organize this football tournament for these kids, with players from our Academy also taking part. It is our President Mr. Evangelos Marinakis’ desire to tangibly support those in need and children in particular. The aim of the entire Olympiacos organization is to help integrate these kids through sports into the Greek society and, of course, their well-being”.

The Special Secretary of the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors Mr. Iraklis Moskof said:

“The power of sports and its potential to promote positive social models are reflected in this joint initiative. The ideal of “fair play” is a main pillar for the integration of these unaccompanied minors in the Greek society”.

Then, Olympiacos FC Vice President and General Director Kostas Karapappas stressed:

“Let me welcome you all in Georgios Karaiskakis, the home of Olympiacos. As you know, Olympiacos is the biggest social group in Greece with millions of followers and loyal supporters, who have turned this club into our country’s largest family. Since 2010, apart from sporting facilities that host thousands of children in the club’s academies across the world -because we do have Academies all over the world, Olympiacos has taken a turn to become a source of offering. This happened following the order and on the basis of the vision of Olympiacos owner Mr. Evangelos Marinakis, the club’s leader, who believes that this immense love the club receives in all its sporting achievements must be returned to the society in the form of love and support to those in need. For me, the club, our President and everybody else, children are the most sacred, more than any flag, any border and other concept. We are going to stand by you, not only in this tournament, but in anything else you might want. Olympiacos has already deployed actions like that with UNICEF that allowed more than 50 thousand kids in Africa being vaccinated and this is more important than titles and trophies won. We have already intervened in the refugee issue. For a long time, Olympiacos was present at the port, next to these people, offering cooked meals to them on a daily basis. They become our family. These actions are the club’s legacy and it is important for all kids to feel fully integrated and walk on the same path with all other children. We shall be here also for future actions. We support you, we are with you, welcome to our club”.

The floor was then given to Mrs. Geli Aroni, Head of the Unit for the Integration and Support of Unaccompanied Minors:

“These kids want to become athletes; there are some great talents amongst them and you cannot imagine their reaction once told that we will organize a large tournament with Olympiacos. When we met at the Rentis Training Center, I remained sat on the grass for almost an hour. It will be an amazing experience for the children. A big thanks goes to Olympiacos and Mr. Nanos who will bring the Academy players to play with our own kids. This is the goal; this is the journey; to have all children integrated in the society”.

The Director of the Olympiacos FC Network of Schools, Vassilis Nanos, referred to the tournament’s modalities:

“Our schools, along with our Academy, breathe social responsibility. We couldn’t but embrace this amazing initiative and provide joy to all these children. This is why we set up a football schedule with an end for these kids to play ball. We built 8 mixed teams with kids and also players from our Academies and Schools every match will last 20 minutes. They will play 5 mitches in total. Olympiacos will provide all kids with their club’s official jersey, special gifts and awards to those kids who will stand out for their ethics and adherence to fair play. We all wish the best of luck in this beautiful tournament to take place on Monday in the Olympiacos facilities”.

Mrs. Nina Gregori, Executive Director of the European Agency for Asylum (EEAA), sent a pre-recorded message:

“It is with great joy that EUAA takes part in this splendid initiative. Collaboration between this Organization and the Special Secretary of the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors has been going on for quite some time and our support to children living in Greece, without their parents, has been significantly strengthened since July 2021. I am particularly happy to launch our common initiative of the Mentoring Program, which aims at supporting the kids to smoothly introduce them in adulthood and the Greek society. We are grateful to Olympiacos for embracing this initiative and organizing the tournament”.

Mrs. Maria Clara Martin, Representative of UNHCR in Greece (UNHCR), also attended and following her introductory greeting in Greek, she stressed:

“Sports can make a difference in the life of people who has been forced to abandon their home countries. Especially in the case of refugee children and unaccompanied minors, it is through sports that they may overcome their trauma, feel safe and accepted and develop their potential. We welcome initiatives like that of the Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors and we are committed that, in the UNHCR, we shall continue working with both states, the world of sports, civil society and refugee communities to build a better world where every refugee may have access and take part in sports at all levels. So, benefits from sports are so many. Now, talking about Olympiacos, you may well understand that this is a dream come true. We would like to thank Olympiacos fir this initiative and the chance given to the children to materialize a dream”.

“It is my great honor to be hosted by one of the top and most important European clubs. The commitment undertaken one of Europe’s largest sporting organizations and its connection with migration is a strong message and a great opportunity for the children and Greek society. Sports is one of the best tools to promote and strengthen values sch as solidarity, respect, honesty and integrity, which are the very foundations of Greek society. We all need such initiatives at a European level”, said Gianluca Rocco, Chief or IMO Mission in Greece”.

UNICEF Greece Diplomatic Representative, Luciano Calestini, underlined the following:

“I have so far managed to stay neutral in Greece with respect to football but now I stand behind a beautiful red microphone, so as of today my neutrality ends. Sports is an amazingly strong tool to underpin these children’s development and a tool we should use more substantially and systematically. I congratulate the organisers of said initiative for their effort and commitment. We remain strong supporters of similar actions aiming at delivering both social inclusion and sound development, skill acquisition and protection of all children in this country”.

Then, the floor was given to Keita Alassane, member of the Mentoring Group under the Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors, who, after his initial welcome, wanted to speak from the heart, as he stressed:

“For us, this is a tournament and we are all glad for what we are about to do. But for the children, this is something to stay in their minds for the rest of their lifetime, and this is my experience talking. I had taken part in a tournament, not of the same caliber, but since then, every time I set foot on the pitch, memories kick back. Moreover, as a former unaccompanied minor, in the first 2-3 years, whatever happens to you is a thing you keep on telling to your friends and family. This is what the kids will do on Monday. I would like to say something about the past. I remember very well the port with the refugees. I have been invited to help with interpreting since I used to speak some Greek back then. After reaching the port, I have seen refugees wearing Olympiacos jerseys. I asked what happened and they told me that Olympiacos delivers jerseys and food stuff every day. My life was hard and I could not even imagine that I would have been giving an interview to Olympiacos for a children’s football tournament. I feel moved and the truth is I had forgotten this story. It is good for people to forget and move forward. I want to say nothing more, I am already shaking from excitement and the only thing to say is “see you on Monday so that kids enjoy sports and develop skills to help them in the rest of their lifetime”. As soon as Keita Alassane finished his contribution, the entire room burst into applause.

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