Samuel, a 13-year-old Cameroonian refugee in Nigeria, has a deep passion for soccer that transcends the boundaries of a sport. His journey from Cameroon to Nigeria was marked by terrifying nights, burning houses, and a profound longing for safety. Yet, through these immense challenges, Samuel discovered that his love for soccer could be a source of strength, resilience, and dreams.
Samuel's love for soccer was evident from the moment he received his first soccer ball at just two years of age. While most kids his age wished for toys or clothes during Christmas or New Year, Samuel always asked for a soccer ball. It wasn't just a game to him; it was a calling.
Escaping the horrors of war
Samuel's family fled Cameroon in 2018 when violence and conflict engulfed their homeland. The journey was fraught with danger, and Samuel will never forget the night they left.
“The reason my family and I left Cameroon was due to the ongoing war. We departed one month after the war began, in 2018. The journey from Cameroon to Nigeria took us two days. I vividly remember the night we left for Nigeria - houses were being burned down while people were sleeping, and the sound of screams filled the air. It was a terrifying experience, and we had to flee for our lives,” says Samuel.
Strength on and off the pitch
Upon arriving in Ogoja, Nigeria, Samuel found solace on the soccer field. The familiar thud of the ball against his feet, the camaraderie of friends, and the thrill of the game became his refuge.
“The football experience in Nigeria is similar to what I was accustomed to in Cameroon.
Moreover, I've noticed an improvement in my confidence since moving here,” says Samuel.
Photo: Save the Children.
“Playing football (soccer) in Ogoja, Nigeria has introduced me to amazing friends. Playing with them is enjoyable because they help me stay focused and ensure there's no chaos during our games. Moving to Nigeria has had a positive impact on my football skills, and I believe it's crucial for me to continue pursuing my passion in my new home. My dream is to become as famous as C. Ronaldo or Vincent Abubakar in the future and represent my country, Cameroon.”
Thanks to the generosity of our supporter community, Save the Children has supported Samuel in his new life in Nigeria. “Save the Children International has played a significant role in my life by educating me about the importance of education, ending gender-based violence, and creating Child Friendly Spaces. They have also taught me various games,” says Samuel.
Through this combination of education and play, we have been working to ensure children like Samuel can recover from their traumatic experiences of conflict, continue their development, while also enjoying the chance to make friends and have fun.
A Glimpse into the Lives of Refugee Children
While Samuel's story is unique, there are many more children who, like him, find resilience and hope in their favourite pastimes. Other Cameroonian refugees like Joseph* and Martin* have found their passions in sculpting. Sofiia* has channelled her love of music and the guitar into a cathartic activity that is helping her process the trauma of fleeing the war in Ukraine. Tariqul,* whose family fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, has also discovered the power of soccer, which has helped in his journey to healing and recovery.