Introducing the ‘Welcome through Football’ Panel at the 20th EFDN Conference

7 November 2023

Introducing the ‘Welcome through Football’ Panel at the 20th EFDN Conference

Shayan Gazerani, Amaliia Shepel, Jelena Nienstedt & Charles Ogaraku are confirmed speakers for the ‘Welcome through Football’ Panel at our 20th EFDN ‘Making Football Matter’ Conference in Athens from the 13th until the 15th of November 2023.

The Welcome through Football project is an EFDN-initiative which has been providing opportunities to young refugees and asylum seekers in different European cities thanks to the collaboration with the project partners of EFDN. During this session Shayan, Amaliia, Jelena & Charles will discuss topics such as their personal experience within the project, how this project helped them, or how they helped the participants, some of the challenges for the Welcome through Football participants and staff, and why this project could be something for other clubs as well.

Shayan Gazerani – Project Coordinator at the Newcastle Foundation 

Shayan is born in Iran, but he lives in the UK now for the past 20 years. He completed his degree in Sports Science at Newcastle College and obtained his football coaching badges. Shayan’s journey in the world of football began as a volunteer football coach at a local club, where he was driven by his love for the sport and the desire to help others. He later applied to join the Foundation as a community coach, marking the beginning of a remarkable 9-year journey with the organization. Currently, Shayan serves as the Project Coordinator for Employability in the refugee community, a role that aligns with my dedication to making a meaningful impact on people’s lives. 

”My journey from an immigrant with no English skills to where I am today is a testament to my resilience and commitment to personal and professional development. I look forward to continuing my work in supporting refugees and contributing to the community through the Foundation.”

Amaliia Shepel – Participant of the Welcome through Football Project 

Amaliia is Big Hearts’ first ever (of 2!) female participants within the Welcome Through Football. Amaliia came to Big Hear through their Ukrainian open day searching for a place that she could access free, fun football and with a mind to getting into local teams. Amaliia was selected for scholarship at a local private school for her ability in sport as well as academia and wanted to further her skills outside a school setting. She has a great level of English and as such was a great link to other Ukrainian members of the group through translating, organising, and chatting with them.  

Amaliia becoming their first female member was of course massive for them. The staff was worried that the physical level might be too tough, it may be an uncomfortable setting or that the other members of the group might reconsider the group if it wasn’t to their liking. However, Amaliia settled right in and had no fear, was competitive and eager to learn from her peers. The group were respectful and made Amaliia feel very welcome and safe, and anyone can feel they can enter, regardless of ability, gender, or race.   

Jelena Nienstedt – Psychosocial Counselor at Refugio Bremen 

Jelena Nienstedt is currently working as Psychosocial Counselor at Refugio Bremen, Germany. She has a master’s degree in psychology at the University in Bremen and has been working at Refugio since November 2021. Her work focuses on psychosocial counseling within the soccer group for male refugees that Refugio has launched in cooperation with Werder Bremen. This counseling extends to individual conversations on site as well as group conversations during the weekly soccer training. If necessary, Jelena is also available to the participants in the office at Refugio for psychosocial support. 

Charles Ogaraku – Sheffield United Foundation 

Charles Ogaraku came to Sheffield in the United Kingdom in 2020, just before the COVID lockdowns halted the majority of support services available to people seeking sanctuary in the UK. Charles endured a difficult start to life in the UK, along with his young family. They were isolated in a brand-new country with little support available to them. Charles has a long-lasting passion for football and began attending Welcome Through Football delivered by Sheffield United Community Foundation in April 2021. From then on, his life in the UK would change forever. 

He quickly developed a love for coaching and saw Welcome Through Football facilitators as true role models. He expressed a desire early on to become a coach, but due to employment laws in the UK, this wasn’t an easy task. In 2023, Charles gained his right to stay and work in the UK, gained a house in Sheffield and was employed as a Community Coach with Sheffield United Community Foundation. He splits his time working as a staff member on Welcome Through Football and Premier League Kicks, a football programme for 8-18 year olds, with a job working nights in a factory.