Serab, Iraq

“There aren’t many chances to play sport for women in Iraq. Spirit of Soccer gave me the chance to return to sport and to help protect our children”.

Spirit of Soccer began working in Iraq in 2008 and expanded its program to Khanaquin, near the Iranian border, in 2012. Serab was one of the female coaches who signed up.

“There aren’t many chances to play sport for women in Iraq” says Serab. “Spirit of Soccer gave me the opportunity to return to the sport I love at the same time as performing a humanitarian role, helping to protect children against mines and other weapons by educating them”.

“We encourage them to play football instead of playing with weapons and to work for a better and safer life” she says.

In 2014 Spirit of Soccer responded to the growing number of refugees fleeing to Iraq – to escape the war in neighboring Syria and the advance of Islamic State (IS) – by taking Mine Risk Education and soccer programs directly into refugee camps. That same year, among with thousands of others, Serab was forced to flee her home as IS forces advanced, meaning life at home as a woman would have been a terrifying ordeal – and just the act of playing soccer would be enough to get you executed.

Despite now living in a camp for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Khanaqin, Serab is still working as a Spirit of Soccer coach, bringing hope to children living in terrible conditions by allowing them to play and taking vital safety messages from tent to tent.

Serab is a great example of the incredible courage and strength of our coaches, working to bring happiness and health to children in the most desperate circumstances.