With much of the debate about asylum seekers in Sweden centred on young men, Göran Smith teamed up with five of his female friends to get girls off the sidelines and onto the football pitch.
The 27-year-old transport researcher explains how he and his friends came up with the idea of starting a football team for refugee girls in Gothenburg.
First, they reached out to friends and acquaintances before paying a few visits to refugee homes. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and in February 2016 the Rampen initiative’s organizers held their first training session.
Nedjma and Ayan battle for the ball as Göran looks on. Photo: Annie Hyrefeldt
Once they got the ball rolling word spread fast, and more and more girls started coming.
“This year we have had around 100 girls in our training sessions so far, and around 20-25 show up on a weekly basis,” Smith tells The Local Voices.
“Now we have a kind of team, and we play games on weekly basis together with more experienced players from a regular team called Kickers BK.”
Smith says he gets a kick out of connecting the girls and helping them socialize in a new country. When Sweden took in record numbers of asylum seekers last year, he and his friends felt girls were overlooked in the debate, possibly because they were far fewer in number than boys.
“We wanted to help make their life better, or at least put smiles on their faces.”
Farhia Mohamed. Photo: Annie Hyrefeldt
The six friends behind Rampen run the initiative in their spare time but try to make sure the players meet up regularly.
“We try to schedule at least two activities a week: one training session, and then a real match against a different women’s football club in Gothenburg. Sometimes we go out to watch football matches, or for fika,” he says.
But when they sit down for coffee and buns not all the talk is of tactics and positioning: Smith says it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the sport for some is mainly a great excuse for the girls to get out and meet people.
“We are already having more activities than planned. We’re like a group of friends having fun together.”
And the players have already expressed an interest in meeting up more than twice a week.
“To be honest, their will to go out and do something, is way stronger than their desire to just play football.
“The girls have a lot of ideas and are very keen to meet Swedes and make new friends. Hopefully we can continue to help them with that, so that they can feel feel secure, involved, and accepted.”
Iman breaks away with the ball at her feet. Photo: Annie Hyrefeldt
Lisa Hammarström - one of the the instigators of Rampen. Photo: Annie Hyrefeldt
Mimi. Photo: Annie Hyrefeldt