Sports in Jordan and Iraq

Jordan and Iraq: Sport for Development

Since 2011, the war in Syria and the advancing troops of the terrorist militia "Islamic State" have driven millions of people from their homes. The number of people who have sought refuge in Jordan and Iraq is especially high.

In some towns, such as Dohuk in northern Iraq, the population has doubled in just a few years because of that.

This raises enormous challenges. Administrations and schools are stretched beyond their capacities, teachers are working in three shifts with 60 pupils in each class, social tensions are increasing.

Fostering social cohesion

Sport for Development, the project implemented in Iraq and Jordan by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the Federal Development Ministry, helps to forge closer ties between refugees and local people.

With support from GIZ, local organisations offer sports activities for refugees, displaced persons and local people aged 8 to 24. These activities give the young people the chance to experience things they have not been able to enjoy for a long time owing to war and displacement: respect, fairness, self-confidence and the feeling of being part of a group. Their physical and mental wellbeing improves.

The joint activities can build bridges. Children and young people from all the different population groups get to know and understand one another, they make friends and see new hope – all of which helps to prevent conflict and violence.

Training the trainers

The project also includes measures to train local specialists so that they can identify and harness the potential of sports for children's development. Social workers, teachers and trainers learn how to teach social skills and values through sports.

Disadvantaged youth and young people who have disabilities are also included. Girls and young women are encouraged to take up sports activities. In a region where, by tradition, such activities are rarely open for girls, that can be a way to empower them.

Fostering personal development in young people

The project has given twenty-one-year-old Maryana Haddad, from the Jordanian women's national football team, the chance to train to become a football coach. These days she is teaching others.

"The programme is unique in Jordan. It links football training provided by a qualified trainer with measures to explicitly foster the personal development of young people. I really enjoy working with the children and coaching them in their development, regardless of nationality, age or gender. I, too, grow through my work as a trainer and I try to be a role model for the kids – on and off the pitch."

Results so far

The Jordanian provinces of Amman, Irbid, Mafraq and Zarqa are home to a particularly high number of refugees. The programme supported by GIZ offers them a range of sports activities at more than 60 schools and 40 other sports facilities, reaching some 7,200 children and young people throughout the region.

In northern Iraq, in the districts of Dohuk town, Saxo and Sumel, some 65,000 children and young people are benefiting from sports activities that are on offer in six refugee camps and in two youth centres. In order to ensure that the project can provide psychosocial support and help prevent violence and resolve conflicts, 240 teachers and trainers will receive special training. Half of the participants are women.