Syria’s Young Talent: brothers who want to be famous footballers

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies

Haytham and Jawad love to play football Pictures: Tabitha Ross

Without education, the potential of hundreds of thousands of talented young Syrian children risks being lost. That’s why we’re calling on the international community to ensure one million refugee children secure an education this year in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

A World at School launched the Hope for Syria’s Young Talent petition ahead of a crucial international Syria pledging conference in London on February 4. World leaders will meet to secure the $750 million needed to fund all the school places for refugee children.

Hope for Syria’s Young Talent shows there is a generation of young people who will not be able to fulfil their potential if they denied an education.

The talented children found for this campaign were discovered by Sonbola, an education initiative working to provide quality education and interactive learning for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon while investing in empowering and developing teaching skills of Syrian professionals. Visit Sonbola’s Facebook page.

In this series of articles, Beirut-based writer and photographer Tabitha Ross talks to some of those talented girls and boys about their hopes and dreams. You can read more about Syria’s Young Talent here.

Here we meet Haytham Khaled Mash-Hadan, 11, Jawad Khaled Mash-Hadan, seven, and their father, Khaled Mash-Hadan.

KHALED: I used to play for one of the best professional teams in Syria called the Syrian Army Team. But I had a sports accident and tore all my ligaments so I couldn’t continue.

I was invited to join the Syrian national youth team in 1996 and then in 1998 I started playing in the Syrian Army Team. It was playing in the finals to be in the national team that I was injured, so I never made it to the national team.  But I was at that level.

Haytham and Jawad with their father Khaled

As a professional, I can see that my sons have a gift for football. Haytham has a very strategic mind – he is thinking about his game way beyond his level, like a 14 or 15-year-old when he’s only 11. And Jawad is very strong in defence.

Whenever anyone sees them playing they tell me that they should become professionals, they are very talented.

They play every day, in a patch of empty land around the back of the house. We’ve been here four years. Our village was between a government area and an anti-government area so it was hit very early in the war. Our house was hit by a bomb and we saw the daughter of our friends, a girl we knew very well, die before our eyes. 

I didn’t want this for my children, so we left and came to Lebanon.

HAYTHAM: I love football. I want to be a famous footballer when I grow up. My favourite team is Barcelona and my favourite player is Lionel Messi.

JAWAD: I want to be a footballer too. I like Real Madrid and Ronaldo. So we fight about who is best!

HAYTHAM: I didn’t go to school for three years. I felt sad. I missed my friends and the teachers and learning.  

I was so happy to go back. I discovered that it was harder to go back than I thought, because I’d forgotten a lot and had a lot to catch up on. But it’s going well now.

Sign the Hope For Syria’s Young Talent petition

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