The Corinthians match where the result mattered far less than the watching refugees

Faisal Ziadah with the match ball ahead of the Corinthians vs Ceara clash.
Updated 15 May 2018
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The Corinthians match where the result mattered far less than the watching refugees

  • Brazilian football club known for championing support for minorities and social movements.
  • Syrian refugees guests of honor at match to publicise plight of those fleeing from conflict.

SAO PAULO: Faisal Ziadah is a smiley 8-year-old Syrian whose parents sought refuge in Brazil two years ago.


Last Sunday in São Paulo, inside the same stadium that hosted the opening match of the 2014 World Cup, he walked out on to the pristine pitch to deliver the match ball to the referee ahead of Corinthians’ top-flight clash with Ceará. The 38,000-strong crowd, holding aloft a sea of banners reading “Respeita os Refugiados,” Respect the Refugees, erupted in cheers.

A total of more than 200 refugees were invited to the stadium, including 18 children from Syria. All the children were involved in the pre-match activities and wore branded T-shirts with “Time dos Povos,” Team of the People, emblazoned across the chest. The initiative was organized in conjunction with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and various other local organizations aiming to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

It was not the first time Corinthians has shown such support to minorities. Founded in 1910 by five railway workers who had gathered together on Rua dos Imigrantes, Immigrants Street, the São Paulo-based club have long championed support for minorities and promoted important social movements. From violence against women to blood donation, breast cancer awareness to children with disabilities, fighting for such causes “is in the club’s DNA” Felipe Davidovich Cusnir, who works in the club’s marketing department, said.

“It was a very special Sunday for the club and for the more than 200 refugees here,” Cusnir added. “Corinthians has always been a club that raises the flag in favor of minorities, be it social responsibility or humanitarian issues. Due to the state of calamity that is hurting both Syria and its people, we couldn’t stay quiet. We know that there is still much to do, but we are trying use our power to increase publicity of the situation.”

The Corinthians players, as well as entering the pitch holding hands with the children, also wore specially commissioned jerseys with their surnames printed in Arabic on the back. Some of the shirts will be auctioned off later this year after being signed and given to various charities, including Lar Sírio Pró-Infância. The São Paulo-based non-profit organization was founded by young Syrians in 1923 and now helps more than 3,000 children and their families every month.

“I was very pleased with this initiative because it reinforces respect for refugees and gives the issue more visibility and emphasis, which is also the desire of Lar Sírio,” said William Adib Dib Junior, president of the 95-year-old institution. “Corinthians brought the idea to us and working with them has been important, it’s an admirable and respected club.”

There was even a splash of celebrity, with Kaysar Dadour, a larger-than-life Syrian refugee who last month became the first foreigner to reach the final of Big Brother Brasil, acting as ambassador for the event and accompanying young Faisal on to the field. The 28-year-old formerly worked part-time at children’s parties and has posted photos on social media proclaiming his love for Brazil and the support his adopted country is providing. According to the UNHCR, 39 percent of Brazil’s 10,145 refugees are from Syria.

“This cause crosses boundaries and borders,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s for all of them — refugees from the past and present. That great-grandfather of yours from Europe or Africa or your grandfather who came from Asia or America, who chose Brazil as their new home.”

Dadour tweeted using the hashtag #RespeitaOsRefugiados. By the end of the match — a 1-1 draw — it had generated more than 55,000 tweets.

“Man, I’m still trembling now,” he told Globo Esporte after watching the match with the Syrian children and acting as their interpreter. “It’s been very emotional, I’ve never seen anything like this is my life.”

Corinthians captain Henrique, who scored for the hosts, wore a special armband displaying the logo of UNHCR, while the in-stadium screens displayed messages in Portuguese calling for peace and showing support for children victimized by conflict. According to the UN, a quarter of the world’s 22 million refugees are Syrian, while more than half are children. Dadour’s success and the event at Arena Corinthians can provide inspiration, said Miguel Pachioni, senior public information assistant at the UNHCR.

“Kaysar is one of the 5.6 million Syrian refugees that had to flee his home,” said Pachioni. “The conditions inside Syria are worse than ever, with 69 percent of civilians languishing in extreme poverty. Kaysar represents hope for this population. This war has left a huge human tragedy. It was important to see the children given the chance to enjoy an event like this.”


Klopp tells Liverpool: ‘We can make history’

Updated 50 min 51 sec ago
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Klopp tells Liverpool: ‘We can make history’

  • Blessed with an attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, a forward line to rival any in Europe, the Reds have played with a devil-may-care attitude.
  • Jordan Henderson: “They (the fans) have played a huge part in us getting this far in the competition. Hopefully, they can create an atmosphere similar to Anfield because it has made a big difference.”

LONDON: Positivity and passion carried Liverpool to today’s Champions League final, and that is what will give them victory against Real Madrid in Kiev. That is the message Reds boss Jurgen Klopp delivered to his players ahead of the showdown with the Spanish giants.
Klopp and Co. head into the clash as marginal underdogs, with Real aiming for their third Champions League crown in as many years. But with nobody backing Liverpool to make the final when the competition started nine months ago, the tag is is not something that has bothered them so far.
Blessed with an attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, a forward line to rival any in Europe, the Reds have played with a devil-may-care attitude, and Klopp wants his side to forget about the occasion and attack the match as they have done every other Champions League tie.
“We are really fine in our position, with our tools. We don’t want to think about what other clubs have,” the Liverpool boss said.
“We did it our way, and we want to do it our way again — and we will see what it leads to.
“Nine months ago we were already a good football team. Maybe a few of us dreamt of being in the final, but only because of the performances we put in in different games. That created a special spirit. That’s our biggest strength, for sure.”
Jordan Henderson — Klopp’s main man on the pitch, the engine of the team and the man who makes the team tick — while acknowledging the Reds are up against a formidable side in Real, preached the same positive message as his boss.
“We are prepared for anything and everything. Real are a fantastic team, but we can hurt Madrid if we perform to the levels we are capable of reaching,” the Liverpool captain said.
“Anything can happen in a Champions League final. It’s about us creating history. We’ve done well to get to this point, but we want to go one step forward.”
If Champions League trophies were won on positive thinking alone, Liverpool are certainties to beat Real Madrid. Both Klopp and Henderson looked quietly confident and relaxed ahead of the biggest match of their lives. Positivity has propelled them to the showdown in Kiev, and there is no desire to change now.
The passion and free-scoring spirit that has characterized the Reds’ march to the final has been matched in the stands. Anfield has been a daunting place for opposition teams, with the 3-0 win over Manchester City in the quarterfinals notable for its intense, hostile atmosphere. And Henderson has called on the Liverpool fans to recreate the passion of home and intimidate Real.
“As we have said before, the fans are a massive part of the club,” he said. “They have played a huge part in us getting this far in the competition. Hopefully, they can create an atmosphere similar to Anfield because it has made a big difference.”
Standing in the way of a sixth European Cup for Liverpool is Real, who again have saved their best performances for Europe while faltering at home.
Attempting to become the first side since 1976 to win three on the bounce, Zinedine Zidane’s side head into the final with a wealth of experience. Cristiano Ronaldo is the side’s spearhead, with Gareth Bale coming into form at just the right time and likely to start tonight.
Klopp is well aware of the defending champions’ combination of excellence and experience, but remains undaunted.
“We have unbelievable quality on our bench, but nobody has the same quality as Madrid,” the German said. “Whoever they have on the bench, they are really quality players.
“Experience is very important. A second before the game, Real will be more confident than we are, but it doesn’t matter because the game isn’t decided in that second. Real are really strong, but they’ve never played us.”
There seems to be an inner belief within the Liverpool side that is both seductive and refreshing. And that, as much as anything else, is why Klopp is a confident man.
“This club has it in its DNA to win big things. We are here because we are Liverpool,” he said.