In the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, there was one contingent that made the most headlines. The 10-member Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes, which included two Syrian refugee swimmers. Then, Yusra Mardini’s life was chronicled and left much teary-eyed. On Tuesday, another “Olympian” made headlines, though not as dramatically as Mardini. His name is Hamid Al-Kadri.
For Hamid Al-Kadri, Syria will never be the same again. What spiraled as an offshoot event of the Arab Spring in 2011 is now a full-fledged civil war, taking hundreds of lives every day. However, his family, like a thousand others, witnessed the turmoil each day, finally escaping to Jordan before fate could grip them like it has done for 125,000 Syrians.
12 years ago, Hamid Al-Kadri refereed the World Cup Qualifier match in its European leg as an Assistant Referee. The last time former FIFA referee ran the lines were in the AFC Champions League in 2009, officiating 5 matches. And then, things changed dramatically for him. Once a regular official in high-voltage football games in the Middle East, Europe and Africa, Hamid Al-Kadri now officiates in the matches for the Bavarian Football Association (BFA).
At 51, the Syrian refugee is at peace with his life, even as he has lost everything back in Damascus due to rampant violence and air raids that started in 2011. He fled to Jordan with his wife and 4 kids, before finally landing in Germany, a country that he last visited as a FIFA referee in World Cup 2006.
After an initial struggle with finances and fighting off the tag of a Syrian refugee, Hamid is one of the few who has crawled back successfully to their former professions. BFA, impressed with Hamid’s stamina and willpower, granted referring license in September 2016. Now, officially on a roster of SV Postbauer, a community organization in Postbauer-Heng, the local crowd and the regular players often cheer up for the referee.
Not sure if he would be ever visiting his hometown again, Hamid expects the European countries, Germany, in particular, to embrace Syrian refugees as their own. Germany continues to follow its open-door policy for refugees despite fierce criticism and terrifying attacks in Europe. And for Hamid, that’s an encouraging sign.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of Hamid and Yusra who are awaiting their chance to live and tell their story to the world as Syrian refugees. Sadly, it’s the world that expects only Russia, the US, and Turkey to resolve the Syrian crisis…
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