Women’s refugee soccer team bonds through the power of sport

A football team made up of 8 women from Liverpool, who are mostly asylum seekers or have been granted refugee status, bond through the power of sport.

Created in 2018 by Comfort Etim, they were originally Refugee Women Connect, a support service Comfort works for, but due to lack of funding they had to stop. They became Comfort Angels after she approached the County FA and subsequently received funding from Amnesty International’s Football Welcome programme.

Comfort previously played professional football in Nigeria before coming to the UK. She then earned a place in the Tottenham Hotspur women’s team, fell in love, had two children and moved to Liverpool in 2008.

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When setting up the team, Comfort told ECHO: “I want to create a safe space where women, especially women asylum seekers, and refugees can come and express themselves and empower themselves through football. I am a woman with lived experience who has I have been through the asylum system myself I am able to identify problems, refer women to organizations and offer support as the majority of them simply want to be heard and listened to.

The team is made up of a group of inspirational women from around the world who have sought asylum in Liverpool and are now regular players in the local football league She Inspires. Their stories show the importance of football not just for inclusion, but also for supporting women on their journey.

They took part in a five-minute documentary produced by Shado (in collaboration with Amnesty International). Shado is a community of activists, artists and journalists working for social justice.

Shado co-founder Isabella Perace said: “It’s great that refugee men’s players and teams have had some coverage in recent years, but it’s rare that this space is given to refugee women who face their own unique set of obstacles. The documentary celebrates the stories of these incredible women and allows their voices to be heard on a subject where their experiences are so often overlooked.”

Hane, the goalkeeper for the Comfort Angels refugee women’s soccer team (Image: Ines Hachou)

Their goalkeeper Hane has waited for a decision on her asylum application for more than eight years and was recently granted humanitarian leave. All this time she has not been allowed to work and had to survive on a £39-a-week allowance, but is now able to claim Universal Credit and allowed to take up employment.

Hane said: “Not having the right to work is a big thing for people who are complaining because we can’t support ourselves and our families. It really affects you in so many ways, especially your mental health, it’s so difficult”.

Asylum seekers can no longer get free advice under the legal aid scheme and it is nearly impossible for people like Hane to pay lawyers’ fees while finding adequate advice and representation. Hane said, “Thank you to Refugee Women Connect and especially Comfort who put me in touch with a lawyer’s clinic, that’s where my case went in the right direction.”

On his desire to be a footballer, Hane said: “It was a childhood dream, but where I come from, football is for men, not for women like me. It’s my dream. to be a footballer, then this [documentary] is to show people who don’t believe”.

Past and present Comfort Angels hail from Nigeria, Albania, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Eritrea, Cameroon, Namibia and Ethiopia and more, including British women at the ‘origin. They meet every Monday at Tiber Football Club in Toxteth and play their league matches at the Sefton County FA grounds.

The documentary launch takes place on Saturday 26 March at the Baltic Hotel, to welcome and celebrate the football team, their families and members of the Liverpool community. For tickets, click here.

The short documentary can then be viewed from March 28 on Shado’s YouTube site.

For more information go to Comfortangels21 on Instagram or call 07883 381 170

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