Arsenal duo Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil learned how The Arsenal Foundation is transforming lives, when they visited a project that is using the power of football to help survivors of torture.
Ahead of the Club’s dedicated matchday for The Arsenal Foundation against Everton - which sees the manager and players donating a day’s wages - the German internationals headed to the Dennis Bergkamp - Cruyff Court pitch at Elthorne Park in Islington, which was opened in 2008, to meet a group that uses football as a therapeutic tool to improve their physical and mental well-being.
The project, which has been running for 18 months with the charity, Freedom from Torture, is one of the 30 projects supported by a donation from The Arsenal Foundation. The weekly football session is delivered by the Club’s community staff and sees a group of around 20 individuals who have sought asylum in the UK come together for football training and English language workshops.
During their visit, the Arsenal players heard more about the participants’ stories and how Arsenal is making a difference to their lives. The players also joined two teams to participate in football drills and referee a match.
Since the Foundation’s launch in 2012, the Club has committed £1 million to its charity partners and projects which are helping 100,000 young people. The projects range from large-scale global education initiatives to smaller-scale projects that are having a positive impact on the local community.
Speaking about the impact of the Arsenal sessions, Selcuk Berilgen, Freedom from Torture group therapist, said: "The change has been visible from the word go. The group is supportive of one another - there are partnerships, friendships, team work and togetherness.
"Football helps in multiple ways - it’s great exercise, it’s healthy, they say they’re sleeping better, and the confidence in the body, for torture survivors, positively affects the mind too."
"The project, which has been running for 18 months with the charity, Freedom from Torture, is one of the 30 projects supported by a donation from The Arsenal Foundation"
As the only organisation dedicated solely to the treatment of survivors of torture and organised violence, Freedom from Torture takes a holistic approach to rehabilitation, catering for the unique needs of survivors. It provides medical consultation and psychological therapies and support, as well as practical help for people who have survived horrific abuses of their human rights.
The charity provides services to almost 1,400 clients from around 65 countries a year, with significant numbers from Iran, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Since the charity’s inception 25 years ago, more than 50,000 individuals have been referred for help, and there are already a number of success stories within the group working with Arsenal.
Arsenal’s dedicated matchday for The Arsenal Foundation takes place against Everton on Sunday, December 8. To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/thearsenalfoundation or text AFCF12 and your donation (eg £3) to 70070.
To find out more about the Foundation’s work, visit www.arsenal.com/thearsenalfoundation
For more about Freedom from Torture, visit www.freedomfromtorture.org
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.