Soccer team helping connect Toronto's Syrian refugees
Syrian Eagles helps refugees to integrate in the city and re-live good memories of old times, says team founder
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Syrian refugees in Toronto are bonding over a shared love of the beautiful game.
The Syrian Eagles are the newest arrival to Toronto’s soccer scene. The team is made up of 21 refugees, some of whom have been in the city for less than five months.
Naveen Faress helped start the team after realizing older refugees would have more difficulty adjusting to life in Canada than younger ones. She figured sports could help them feel at home.
“I come from Egypt and I know the importance of soccer in people’s lives,” said Faress, whose family moved to Toronto in 1987 when she was only four years old. Now a real estate agent, forming a soccer team was her own way of welcoming Syrian refugees to the city.
“I thought it would be something that brings good memories for them, and break them out of that cycle of depression or anxiety from bad experiences,” she said.
There’s a lot of talent on the team, but the point of the Syrian Eagles is more social. Every weekend the team meets at the Eglinton Flats pitch for practice and games, but Faress says the emphasis is on building connections and getting to know the city.
“They get to talk about what they want to achieve in life,” said Faress. “It’s about building their confidence and breaking any cultural barriers.”
The Syrian Eagles are an affiliate of the Toronto Muslim Soccer League and once Ramadan is completed, the team will start competing in the league.
Team coach Abdou Mousli, 25, said he receives calls on a constant basis from more Syrians who want to join the team.
“Maybe next year we should start a second team,” he said.