Find out how football is helping Sami, a refugee from Sudan, find his feet in England

The first of 167 FA Grassroots Hubs across England, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) and Sir Tom Finney Preston Soccer Centre has been providing weekly football sessions for local refugees since October 2017. The sessions have since grown from eight people at the start to over 40 participants of different ages and nationalities, helping the refugees to settle into the community and meet people with similar experiences. We meet Sami Hary, who takes up his story on how the partnership has helped him and others…

Friday 20 Apr 2018
Sami Hary arrived in England as a refugee from Sudan and now plays regularly with a group at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston

It’s horrible to think about it now.

For six days, we were in the boat and on the sea from Egypt. There was waves and water getting into the boat. There were 600 people on the boat, including women and children and with no water or food, people were dying.

FA College & University Grassroots Hubs programme
  • The FA is investing into colleges and universities
  • Aims to engage 250k participants through the programme
  • Sustain and grow participation across students, local community and workforce

The ship was going to Italy and it was supposed to take seven days but after six days, a ship from France or Italy - I’m not quite sure - came and saved the people.

Before that, I was living a very good life in Sudan, I was happy there. I was born in the Darfur region and grew up in Nyala, where I played football with my friends every day and for a team at U17 and U19 level.

But due to the war circumstances and the crisis which happened in Darfur, for a long time, I didn’t know whether I’d be able to play football again.

As a black African tribe, my people were discriminated against by the government.

I was arrested, imprisoned, beaten and threatened to be killed, just because I was seen as being in the administration against the government.

Playing football has helped me to start rebuilding my life in Preston


It was because of the war and the situation for my people, there was no way I could stay, so I needed to leave my home and Sudan.

I left Nyala after my father contacted one of his friends in the capital Khartoum and he took me to a place called Port Sudan which is close to Egypt. From there, he arranged for me to go to Egypt and I got the boat.

We ended up in Italy, by the sea and then I went to France and stayed in Calais, sleeping on the street, eating from charities and if you don’t find charities, eating from dust. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to come to the UK by lorry.

I’ve been here in Preston for over two years now and it feels great to be able to play football in this new environment. I’m so grateful to everyone involved with the Sir Tom Finney Soccer Centre.

After starting out with just eight, there are now over 40 refugees attending the sessions at UCLAN


Of course, I still miss my home and my friends in Sudan – I wish I played with them. But also in the UK, the UCLAN Sport Arena, they provide everything we need – the kit, the coaches and we play football – it’s the same as when I was in Sudan.

Away from the football, I work with the British Red Cross as a volunteer and I help translate for people, from Arabic to English. I go there every Thursday and if they need me on other days I go to the main office to help them.

When I first came to this country, my English wasn’t good but I have improved and because some of the people here haven’t been here for as long, I can help them to translate so I go with them to the Job Centre, doctor, dentist, to help translate and just to help them.

Now I’ve done my English, I’m doing my access course at Preston College, access to science, and I’ve applied to University this year so can hopefully get in to study oil and gas safety engineering. I’ve already got an offer from UCLAN to study next year.


Find out more about our partnership with BUCs and the College & University Grassroots Hubs programme. The release of the film below coincides with Football Welcomes, the Amnesty led initiative which profiles other football related projects across the country which are helping refugees and asylum seekers.

By Sami Hary