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Factors such as cultural differences, language barriers and social stigmas can make it difficult for international students to adapt to life here in the UK.

The Football for Unity project provides an opportunity for communities to come together and proactively understand the importance of social inclusion, demonstrating football’s unique ability to promote equality and social inclusion.

This term, 11 ESOL students took part in this fantastic project alongside other young third-country nationals and young Europeans. Not only did they take part in several football-based activities, but they also heard from 19-year-old female coach Jasmine, also a refugee from Bangladesh, who spoke about her experiences moving away from a refugee camp to the UK.

In addition to the Football for Unity project, football once again brought the community together as part of Refugee Week in June.

A team of pre-entry ESOL took part in a football tournament alongside a group of asylum seekers and refugees at Selhurst Arena hosted by Croydon Voluntary Action. The group played against a team from the police to bring people from different walks of life together and raise awareness of the work the police are involved in.

At the beginning of the tournament, each team were given a set number of points that were deducted every time a player displayed unsportsmanlike behaviour, and of course our fantastic ESOL students didn’t lose any points!

Commenting on the football programmes, Sherry Dougan, Head of English, Maths and ESOL said, ‘Our students were a credit at both events – they were engaged throughout, worked really well together and enjoyed the whole experience. By taking part in the projects, they have been able to learn from one another, acquire life skills and become agents of change and community building.’

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