Liverpool FC around the world: The refugees fleeing DR Congo for Uganda

Football influences all of our lives differently. For child refugees in Uganda, Liverpool FC and the game provides a break from the struggles of life away from home.

Nearly 700 children share just one worn football at the Planning for Tomorrow Youth Organisation (P4T) school for refugees in Uganda.

Two of those who chase after the frayed ball on a daily basis are Richard Sam Wani and Nicholas. The boys are pictured, left and right respectively, above.

They are both just 16 years old, yet have been forced to flee their homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to the long-standing humanitarian crisis caused by various inter-communal conflicts in the country.

Sunset over DR Congo [Photo: Brian Lally]

Now, they live at the school in the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement.

Wearing a Liverpool shirt from the title-winning season of 2019/20, Richard is on his own with his sister. He’s an orphan, but football gives him a release from a turbulent life.

Despite living over 4,000 miles away from Anfield, it’s clear from the pair’s body language that they’re proud to call Liverpool their team and are eager to talk about their football experiences.

Richard explained how his nickname came to be ‘Mo Salah‘: “I was someone who liked supporting Liverpool so much. Everywhere I would go I liked talking about Liverpool, that’s why my nickname sometimes when I play football is Mohamed Salah.”

Sat next to him is Nicholas, whose favourite player is a slightly unusual choice. He’s opted for Alisson, as he too is a goalkeeper when playing on the rocky terrain of the village.

The 16-year-old spoke about how he started supporting the Reds. “I started when I was still young,” Nicholas recalled.

“I was competing with my brother because my brother is a fan of Man United. All I remember is that, at home, they were all fans of Man United.”

Richard Sam Wani (left) and Nicholas (right) [Photo: Brian Lally]

He continued: “My father told me all about Liverpool and he told me all about Man United. He told me that I should choose a team. I said ‘Liverpool and Man United, what should I pick?’.

“I went and asked my friends, they all told me I should go with Man United but I said ‘no, I will choose Liverpool’.

“My father was trying to convince me that I should always be Man United with the whole family supporting Man United, but I always stuck on Liverpool because they’re my best team and the player who I always liked was Alisson.”

It’s tough to follow the team while at the refugee camp, but Richard says he can still keep track of what’s happening: “I see sometimes. I’m always hopeful I can see them, but I think the time when I can see them is in the holidays.

“Since I came here to P4T, I have no chance to see the game.”

Talking about Jurgen Klopp‘s side, Richard said: “I admire the game they play and I am so happy about their matches and how they play their games. Also, I like their players better than other teams’.

“Although there hasn’t been a trophy this season, I still like it!”

Richard continued: “We play football in the village, there’s nowhere else you can go.

“But I promise that in all situations I will support Liverpool, and if I get a chance to see Anfield in the future, I will reach there if I have that chance.”

Children playing football at the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, Uganda [Photo: Brian Lally]

The cultural differences between Africa and the UK are plenty, but some things stay the same.

Describing a scene not dissimilar to a playground in the UK, Richard explained: “We play football. Sometimes we mix up.

“Sometimes when we play, we say Liverpool fans on one side and we put Man United fans all mixed with Arsenal which balances it out best.

“Or sometimes we mix ourselves up, Liverpool vs. Arsenal and Man United vs. Man City.”

The village football games are a break from the struggles of refugee life for the children.

Nicholas says the kickabouts are just “physical exercise.” But without support, they can’t even play football for fun.

* If you’d like to donate and support the refugees, which would include increasing the school’s sports budget from £0, please head to The Altenburg Foundation.