Norwich charity using power of football to welcome refugees to the city

A charity in Norwich is using the power of football to welcome asylum seekers and refugees to the city.

Patrick Heaton-Armstrong from New Routes Integration runs sessions at the UEA Sportspark every week. 

The goal is to allow players to meet new people and build friendships, as well as fine-tuning their skills. 

The kickabouts are largely informal, although many players have gone on to play for local clubs.

The players come from all corners of the globe, including war-torn countries like Sudan and Afghanistan, and have had difficult starts to life.

Patrick Heaton-Armstrong takes the sessions. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"Most of the guys who are here are unaccommodated asylum-seeking children so they came without their parents," Patrick Heaton-Armstrong told ITV News Anglia.

"Most of them are quite young so they left their country of origin when they were quite young. So now that they're in the UK, it's just all about helping them to feel at home and start their new life."

Most of the players can't speak English when they arrive in the country, but through the universal language of football, the sessions give them an opportunity to make new friends and mix with like-minded people.

The sessions are now free as well after the project was awarded £1,500 worth of grants from Universities of Sanctuary to help pay for the pitch hire and equipment.

Hamza Mahmoud is one of the players who regularly attends. Credit: ITV News Anglia

It's making a huge difference to people's lives, and many of the players already feel at home in Norwich.

"I feel happy, I feel happy when I came to here and play football with my friends. We have fun," 19-year-old Hamza Mahmoud from Sudan said.

18-year-old Teman Edreas added: "I'm now a Norwich City fan because I live here. I support Norwich."