Former Arsenal defender, Martin Keown, officially opened a new Save the Children football pitch for Syrian children in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan on May 2, as part of the Club’s global partnership with the charity.
The Arsenal legend, who made more than 400 appearances for the Club and was an integral part of the Double-winning sides of 1998 and 2002, spent two days visiting the camp to highlight the critical work being carried out on the ground by Save the Children.
The international children’s charity is one of the largest organisations working in the camp, providing vital support for Syrian children and families that have crossed into Jordan to escape the Syrian civil war.
Some 120,000 people - more than half of them children - are sheltered at the Za’atari camp in the north of Jordan. Numbers continue to increase daily with hundreds of new arrivals from Syria. Save the Children, in partnership with UN agencies and Jordanian authorities, is working around the clock to help the Syrian refugees. As well as providing food and other essentials, the charity is providing emotional support for children who have suffered or witnessed brutal attacks within Syria and working to get them back into education.
During his visit to Za’atari, Martin heard some of the devastating stories from children that have been affected by the conflict, before meeting with Save the Children representatives to see how their work is making a difference on the ground. To complete his trip, Martin officially opened a new football pitch in the camp. For many Syrian children, playing football on the new pitch will give them the chance to regain a sense of normality following the horrific events they’ve experienced.
Speaking about his visit, Keown said: “It’s been a truly humbling experience coming out here and listening to some of the stories of hardship from children so young.
"The strength and resilience that they show, having been through so much, is an inspiration and it’s been a privilege to support Save the Children’s important work and use the power of the Arsenal name to bring a little bit of hope and enjoyment to their lives.
"Football is a platform for bringing people together, instilling discipline, team work and a sense of achievement and well-being which are vital ingredients for future success.”
Speaking about the visit, Save the Children’s chief executive Justin Forsyth said: “Arsenal has been a generous supporter of Save the Children’s emergency appeals in the past and this visit once again shows the Club’s commitment to helping ensure that children caught up in emergencies are not forgotten.
"Martin Keown’s visit has delivered a message of hope to the children living in Za’atari and has helped us raise awareness of the plight of children inside Syria and across the region, who are growing up in the shadow of this conflict.”
Through its charitable partnership, Arsenal has already supported Save the Children’s disaster relief work in Japan and East Africa.
Next week the Club will launch an appeal for Syria at The Arsenal Foundation Ball, with money raised being used to fund temporary learning spaces for Syrian children and provide them with essential learning materials.
These learning spaces will give many Syrian refugee children the opportunity to continue their education in a safe environment.