Freedom From Torture visit

Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil made a return visit to a therapeutic football programme run by Arsenal in the Community and human rights charity Freedom from Torture this week.

The World Cup winning pair were there to celebrate the news that the scheme will be the recipient of a £27,000 grant from the FA, as a result of Arsenal’s involvement in the Community Shield.

The co-run Football Therapy Group, funded by The Arsenal Foundation, brings together survivors of torture who have sought asylum in the UK for football training and English language workshops. It uses football as a tool to improve participants’ physical and mental wellbeing.

Mertesacker and Ozil, who first met the group back in December 2013, took part in a football session at the Arsenal Hub – Home of Arsenal in the Community, before posing for pictures and chatting to participants.

Mertesacker said of the visit: “We are proud that the team’s success in the FA Cup last season has helped to support our work with Freedom from Torture. This is the second time Mesut and I have been to this project. Both times, we have met people who have been given new hope and confidence through their involvement with football and Arsenal. That is a very special thing.”

Freedom from Torture group therapist Selcuk Berilgen said: “Through the programme we have watched so many torture survivors start off on a journey from an isolated place to being part of this tremendous team, developing friendships along the way.

“Arsenal in the Community is about belonging somewhere. As a result survivors tell us their appetite is better, they sleep better and they love seeing friends and meeting new people through this group. We are very excited the new FA Community Shield grant will allow us to do even more with Arsenal.”

Victor, a torture survivor who plays regularly with the football therapy group, added: “The Group is everything. It is more than therapy, it is our family. I can’t miss it. Whatever it is on a Monday, if it’s rainy or sunny, I’ll be there.”

Freedom from Torture is supported by The Arsenal Foundation. Since the Foundation’s launch in 2012, the Club has committed over £1.5 million to its charity partners and projects. Beneficiaries range from large-scale global education initiatives to smaller-scale projects that are having a positive impact on the local community, and together they are helping over 100,000 young people make the most of their potential.

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