Saturday, 13 July 2024
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Saturday, 13 July 2024

Oxford Phoenix marks Refugee Week by celebrating third birthday

A refugee football squad based in Oxford is celebrating its third birthday this week – and the team’s management has plans to expand its footprint across the rest of the county.

Oxford Phoenix launched in 2021 and works with city-based refugees and asylum seekers to help them integrate into the community, make new friends and develop life skills applicable on and off the pitch.

The team trains twice weekly, participates in regular competitive fixtures is the brainchild of Refugee Resource and is supported by charities Oxford United in the Community and Asylum Welcome plus the Oxfordshire FA.

To mark Refugee Week, the club – home to 40 players – has confirmed its intention to compete in an 11-a-side men’s league for the first time with further plans to provide additional training provisions in other locations across the county.

Youcef El Barhdadi, inclusion football officer at Oxfordshire FA, is now appealing for financial support to help the club enter a regional league and take its delivery to the next level.

Youcef said:

“The progress each member of Oxford Phoenix has made on and off the pitch in the last three years has been genuinely extraordinary. We’ve seen the positive impact regular training and friendly fixtures have on the physical and mental well-being of refugees and asylum seekers who have experienced unthinkable trauma to be here.

“In partnership with Refugee Resource, Asylum Welcome and Oxford United in the Community, we now want to take our delivery to the next level by establishing Oxfordshire’s first refugee football squad in a local league.

“This will be aligned with an expansion of our training provisions for refugees and asylum seekers, with sessions and competitions planned across the county in the next year.

“We’d be grateful to hear from anyone who can support our journey and be part of a fantastic feel-good story which champions inclusion, opportunity and personal development.”

In addition to friendly fixtures against Oxford City U18s, AFC Brightwell and Summertown Reserves, members of Oxford Phoenix have also been treated to a matchday experience at Oxford United thanks to the squad’s connection with the club’s chosen charity.

The Oxford United in the Community team deliver sessions at Greyfriars Academy on Mondays and connects the squad with other local teams to assist with the organisation of fixtures.

Mark Thomas, social inclusion lead at Oxford United in the Community, added:

“Watching players grow in confidence has been really rewarding and we’re especially proud of our connection to Oxford Phoenix.

“It can be easy to forget the positive impact football and participation can have on people’s lives outside the bubble of the pitch. The current setup provides a proven method to help city-based refugees and asylum seekers make new connections, learn skills and integrate into the community – which embodies everything our team aims to achieve day to day.”

With support from city-based Turpin Miller Solicitors, Oxford Phoenix took delivery of home and away kits last season for players to wear during friendly fixtures.

Organisations interested in providing additional support the help the club realise its ambition of entering a regional league can email youcef.ElBarhdadi@oxfordshirefa.com.

Funds would be used to cover pitch hire, match fees, travel and additional expenses.

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