War in Syria has left more tan 300,000 people dead and a devastated country. Millions of refugees, dispersed all over the globe, are trying to survive and find a way of living after seeing their families broke apart due to the disastrous military and geo-political conflict. Suddenly it seems like life is worthless and people’s destiny ends up depending just on luck.
The lives of Osama Abdul Mohsen and his family were already drowning in misfortune when they had to make the hard decision to leave their country fleeing the horror of war. They ran away leaving everything behind and the journey took them to the border between Serbia and Hungary. As Osama managed to escape from the hands of a policeman, running and carrying his youngest child Saed in the middle of a corn field, he was deliberately tripped up by Hungarian camerawoman Petra Lazslo who was at the scene covering the story. The kick went viral and helped Osama, in a way that changed his fate.
First division coach in Syria and a Real Madrid fan, Osama received a call of Miguel Ángel Galán, head of the National Centre of Coaching Formation (CENAFE) and former candidate to the chair of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). Generously, Galán offered him a job and a paid apartment for him and his family. The luck seemed to be changing for Osama who almost became a TV celebrity in Spain as soon as he arrived and enjoyed for one year. He was one of the very few fully integrated refugees into the Spanish society.
He has been living in southern Madrid city of Getafe for a year and a half. Due to his lack of the Spanish language, CENAFE didn’t renew his contract. Meanwhile he is still trying to get his family back. Three of his four kids are already in Spain but his wife and daughter are still in Turkey awaiting for permission to travel. Currently unemployed, he is focused on learning Spanish, not only in order to get his job back but to increase his chances in Spain to improve the quality of his life.
Osama receives us at his flat. His son Saed watches TV and looks at the people getting into his home without much interest. It looks like Osama, in syrian, tells him to say hi. The little one stands up, shakes hands and goes back to cartoons while we set up for the interview. Despite his limited vocabulary, we communicate in English. A 40-minute chat gives us the opportunity to talk about his situation in Spain, his family, the war in Syria and about football too. At the end of the interview, he asks for help to buy a plane ticket. With Saed, they are going to Athensmaking a stopover in Istanbul. With a bit of luck, he will be able to meet for a few hours with his wife and daughter.
Now that you are not training, what’s your daily life like?
Now I dont have a job, I’m just learning Spanish, I go to classes every day. One hour or two. I’m learning but I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.
So know you are just with your kids and learning
Yes. My kid Saed goes to school every day, he now speaks perfect spanish, you can ask him anything.
What happened with your training-job?
I had one year of contract, it finished and they (CENAFE) didn’t renew. He (Miguel Angel Galan) told me I must learn Spanish. I don’t know why they finished the contract but everything’s fine with him. The contract just finished.
Galan said the contract finished but that after four months if you learn enough Spanish they renew your contract..
He said that but I don’t need that job. I don’t want to work at CENAFE, I need another job.
Don’t you want to train anymore?
Yes I wan’t to train but in another club, another job. Not at CENAFE
Why you don’t want to work at CENAFE?
Because last year I was all the time at work, during the morning and in the afternoon too. I didn’t have time to learn spanish, I didn’t have time to work out my family papers and I was very tired. Maybe if I find a job which is just in the afternoon or in the morning it would be better. It was very bad for me being working there all day. During one year I learnt very few spanish, and we haven’t have hollidays for one year. I have been very tired.
How’s your family doing?
My kids here are very good, they go to school and very good. My other boy, my big boy, who came from Turkey is learning now spanish in Barcelona. My wife and my daughter are in Turkey.
How’s the paperwork going? You told me they were waiting for some papers
Yes, everything for Spanish visa is sort out, but it’s very difficult to travel from Turkey, because my family don’t have the card to travel outside. Every Syrian in Turkey must have a, in spanish ‘tarjeta’, and you can’t go out from Turkey if you don’t have that card. There are more and more Syrians in Turkey every time and it’s very difficult to get the permission. It’s very slow, but I hope it works out.
In how much time do you think you can have all your family together?
I hope that in a couple of months.
So you have told me you didn’t learn Spanish because you were working all the time.
Look when I came here I didn’t know anything in Spanish. I have worked but I haven’t learn and for me it’s very important to learn the language. Not just to work at CENAFE, but for me, it’s very important. Now I understand more, I get entire sentences and if you speak slowly I can understand most of the things but it’s difficult to speak.
Which kind of job would you like to have? Football?
Yes football or to teach sport. I used to teach sport at schools in Syria, or maybe train in another football club. Now the season has began. Maybe next year.
What do you think about the Petra Lazslo’s sentence?
Well, good but it’s not exactly good for her going to prison. I don’t want her to go to prison because she has a child, a home and husband but I think it’s good for refugees in Europe as a message. Many people like me are worried about coming here, because they don’t know if they can live here. In a way I’m happy for what happened with Petra in Hungary not for her going for prison but for all refugees in Europe.
You have been here now for more than one year. ¿What do you think about the refugees situation in Europe?
I think it’s difficult to have a good life in Europe, there are too many refugees. It’s difficult because of the language, to find a job. But at the same time there are a lot of very happy refugees living in Germany, Hollande or Belgium.
In Spain the refugee situation is very difficult because its a poor country. There is no much money for refugees. I listen about different refugees who don’t want to live here.
For example now that my contract finished, it is very difficult to live, to rent house or just for living. There are different organisations who care and give money to refugees but many little, it’s not enough money to live.
What do you think about the situation in Syria?
It’s very difficult. I don’t understand what’s happening in Syria. Every time more countries are coming to Syria for fighting: DAESH, Bachar Al Assad, Iraq, Iran, Russia, United States, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia. I don’t understand the situation.
One month ago, I listened everything was about to stop. Now the war is back, very hard again. I don’t understand. United States, Russia, I just don’t know.
The problema in Syria is Bachar Al Assad. When he is gone, everything will finish. DAESH will be destroyed easily when Al Assad leaves. But Al Assad has take everything. I think everyone involved in this war knows it, DAESH will be directly finished when Assad is gone.
Looking to what they say and media say, Al Assad is fighting against DAESH, that’s ok, but under the table the truth is Al Assad and DAESH are partners. They are killing people together. I think between Assad and DAESH there has been very little fights.
Diplomacy is very difficult. I don’t understand why Russia is involved in the war, why America is sometimes in silence and sometimes takes part, I don’t understand why . Its just killed people, children and woman.
Of course I would like to come back to Syria, I have my friends and family there. My mother and brother live in Damascus. I would like to come back and see them, the situation and help them if they need me. That is very important for me.
They are fine but is very difficult to live there. I contact with him every once in a month, but they have all kinds of problems, electric problems sometimes they don’t have water and its very expensive, everything is very expensive. There are soldiers all over Damascus.
In Damascus, you can spend four or five hours to travel one kilometer because of all the checking points.
Do you have any contact with anyone in Syria besides your family?
I only have contacts with my family. I don’t know where my friends are exactly. Months ago a friend called me saying “We are going to a far village from Syria, we don’t have light and food.”
The government just Works in diplomacy. They don’t spend anything on the Syrian citizens. My club told me I couldn’t go anywhere, because if I leave and for example go with Al Fotuwa to Turkey I could not go back.
Many players have left because it’s very difficult to practice sport or do anything on the country. Internationally the Syrian teams plays but just in Damascus
(The conversation took place weeks ago before Luis Enrique announcement)
I think Barcelona needs to change coach. Luis Enrique is a good coach but he has to change after this years. Like Guardiola did, for me Guardiola is a very clever person. He trains for the necessary years, after two years in a club and then he leaves. I think coaches need to move somewhere else constantly.