Mohammad and UNICEF's sports for development programme in Syria

“I love the coach and my team mates!”


06 April 2019

At only 16, Mohammad has experienced far more than his share of loss early in life. His father passed away when he was only 11 because of a stroke, leaving Mohammad and seven siblings. The year after, Mohammad’s older brother, Yasser, was killed in an explosive hazard accident.

“He stepped on a mine and died immediately,” recalls Mohammad with tears in his eyes.

Mohammad and his mother became the breadwinners of the family, working in a farm close to their home in Tal Aran village, southern rural Aleppo.

Every day, after finishing school and work, Mohammad calls on his friends to play football in an empty yard nearby.


“I bought the ball and the uniform of my favourite team from my savings after my brother died. The only time I feel happy is when I play football,”


Last year, Mohammad heard about the UNICEF-supported adolescent-friendly space, where he attended a course on life skills. When volunteers noticed Mohammad’s passion for football, they advised him to enrol in the sports for development programme, also supported by UNICEF.

“I love the coach and my teammates! It was also nice to play in a proper field.”


The programme allows young people to take up sports and activities including football, gymnastics self-defense, basketball, yoga, badminton and chess. They play and practice in well-equipped safe spaces. These gatherings are also used as a platform to discuss all kinds of age-appropriate information, including health, hygiene, social cohesion, peace-making and team-building.

“I love it when I learn new techniques in football, I practice at home to make sure I get the best out of the coaching,”


Mohammad dreams of becoming a professional football player when he grows up.

The sports for development programme helps youth promote a healthy lifestyle and wellbeing while enhancing their skills and including the excluded. In 2018, thanks to Germany, Japan, Finland, Canada and Luxembourg, more than 40,000 youth and adolescents benefited from the programme across Syria.