The Faisal cup hosted at ISKL included a myriad of faces united by an all encompassing love for football and netball. The ages showcased at the tournament ranged from 8 year olds to 18 year olds. All of the participants were refugees coming primarily from Myanmar. Their eyes were glued to the games as they cheered for their school mates. The different schools sported different colours, each vibrantly adding to the masses making their mark. The sheer amount of volunteers helping run the tournament was inspiring as they ensured the swift organization of games.
Many of the schools participating have clubs that train exclusively for the Faisal Cup. While it is a fun way to unite a larger community it is also taken very seriously among the refugees. For most, this is their only shot at competition. Their only taste of a real tournament. Henry, Justin Jack, and Gideon were playing to win, explaining how they had practiced ‘every evening for two hours’ to ensure a shot at victory.
Justin, a 17 year old Chin refugee came to Malaysia ‘when I was 9 years old by car. Many refugees come by land, we can’t afford flights’. He animatedly discussed his love for football but also expressed how ‘our teammates are family and the exercise relieves our stress’. The concept of a team equating family was a recurring one amongst many players. A young 12 year old girl summarised the general feeling by saying ‘I like to work as a team, it reminds me of my family’.
Mohammad, 16 years old, was very serious in his interview and his reasons for playing football. ‘ ‘we need this for our profession, we want to play professional like Messi or Neymar’. While he jokingly name dropped other footballers he made it clear that the Faisal cup was his shot at practicing and developing a skill that could prove vital in terms of a potential career. ISKL offers facilities that aren’t as accessible to athletes that want to progress their skills.
The tournament is serious competition however at its core it is about the unity and spirited collaboration of team mates. The spirit of the cup is perhaps best concluded by the wise words of 9 year old Myriam ‘I like to take goals, but if we lose we learn.’