Post by Neil Stacey
Mohammed Jaddou is 17 years old. Considered as one of the brightest footballing talents in Asia, he is captain of the Under 17 Syrian National Team that qualified for the Under 17 World Cup. But he will not participate in the tournament later this year. Now a refugee in Germany, the precociously talented Mohammed has moved a long way from both his home in Syria and his dream of representing his country at the Under 17 World Cup.
With a ball at his feet on the pitch, Mo seems to not have a care in the world. But perception and reality can be two very different things. Mo has witnessed the first hand destruction of a civil war that has raged in Syria since 2011.
“Sometimes while we were training (in Syria), we used to see the missiles landing, and witness clashes between the army, the regular army and the free army” he explained.
When Tarik Gharir, a team mate of Mo’s who he considered “an older brother”, was killed in a bombing, Mo’s father decided to leave Syria with his family and seek a new life for all of them in Europe. But people smuggling comes at a price. Mohammed found out the hard way, as he had to leave his mother and two siblings behind in a war torn state.
“4 months have passed now since I last saw them. I miss them so much and I wish I could return to Syria to see them. I hope the day will come when we sit all together in our house free of wars and misery.”
The journey to Europe was fraught with danger and along the way, Mo “encountered death more than 500 times from airplane bombardment and shooting”. The sea proved no less perilous for him. The boat Mohammed was in, which overcrowded by around 130 people, sank whilst crossing the Mediterranean and only the coast guards of Italy prevented a repeat of the type of images that have been on the front of every newspaper recently.
The journey so far has been tremendously difficult for Mo, but he knows that his battle has only started. As a refugee in Germany, he has no employment status. Despite being courted by some of the Bundesliga’s biggest clubs, Mo’s future looks, for the moment at least, fairly bleak.
He hasn’t learnt German yet, but with the help of volunteers in Oberstaufen where he and his family live, such hurdles are easier for Mo to tackle:
“My dream is to pay for Real Madrid. I dream of becoming the best football player in the world. This is not just a dream, it is an aspiration. Many people dream with no fruitful results. But for me, I intend to make this dream come true”
Having given and sacrificed so much already on his long journey, few would bet against Mohammed making good on his promise and living his dream.