What started as a four-week initiative has turned into a six-year project. From a temporary measure to a true success story. "You can’t just close the door and turn away here. That would be most irresponsible," said 59-year-old social worker Martin Ulrich Klar, who has been leading the "Sports for Development" project from Amman along with a colleague. The project is promoted by "German Society for international cooperation" (GIZ), a Federal Republic of Germany operation. The Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is the primary contractor, while the DFB is a major project partner in addition to the DOSB. These days, the "International Instructors Course" is being organised for the coach trainers from Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon.
"Football creates cohesion, that’s what this is about," said Uli Klar. Sport, especially football, is needed in Jordan. Not, however, as a distraction from stress at work, not as a welcome pretext to the weekend’s barbecue party. "In this region in particular, the cohesion brought about by sport is a matter of existential significance." When civil war broke out in 2011 in Syria, people were fleeing for their lives and many crossed the southern border into Jordan. "They thought the nightmare would soon be over, so they took short-term refuge just over the border in the middle of the rocky desert," he recalls. That was when Zaatari came about, one of the world’s biggest refugee camps.
Among several economic problems, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and its almost ten million inhabitants are faced with an increasingly dangerous water shortage and the immense challenge of taking care of the hundreds of thousands of refugees and offering them long-term perspectives. As a result of the wars in the Middle East, there have been repeated waves of refugees since the 1950s. The population has grown twenty-fold since then. To put that into perspective, in Germany’s case this would bring the population to more than a billion.
Uli Klar and his team work with local partners to organise low-threshold football opportunities – even in the Zaatari refugee camp, but also in many other areas of the partner countries, because neither Jordan nor Iraq have the kind of club landscape that we are used to in Germany. There are only professional clubs, which only take on and develop the most talented players. Uli Klar: "No child gets turned away. And because we have so far been able to train more than 1100 coaches and teachers and provide them with the necessary basic equipment, they are capable of leading meaningful training sessions for up to 100 kids on the pitch."
"The DFB is our anchor – just a hugely important and reliable partner," he said, pointing out that German football has a superb reputation in the region. "When the German coaches come here, all the doors fly open," he said. The DFB also provided the trainer for the IIC. During the five-day course, Sebastian Weinand put the focus on educational, social and cultural competencies, while tactics and knowledge of performance diagnostic hardly played a role. Back three or back four, that’s of less importance when dozens of kids are on the pitch, "Instead, our coaches learn how to bring kids and young players from various communities together. Their role as a role model is of huge importance," said Klar.
Half of the IIC participants were women. For anyone surprised by that, Uli Klar has the following explanation: "In football, many things are possible that in other areas of day-to-day life would be unimaginable." After the initial pilot project with participants from Botswana and Namibia at the beginning of June, a second has now taken place with the Jordanian football association, supported by the UEFA Assist-Programme. Eva Jacobi of the DFB wants to incorporate the IIC into the DFB’s international relations portfolio. "The courses have shown how valuable this training focus can be in the regions," said Jacobi.