Last month I went to a small German village near the Austrian and Swiss border. I was there to go and meet Mohammed Jaddou, the captain of Syria’s under 16 national team.
Despite the human toll of Syria’s civil war — that has internally displaced over 7 million people and seen 4 million more flee the country — that team has excelled over the past year, qualifying for the 2014 AFC Championships, where they reached the semi-finals. Jaddou starred in that tournament, which meant that the team qualified for the Under 17 World Cup finals in Chile later this year.
But Jaddou won’t be there. Instead, after one too many near death experiences, he fled the country over land and sea. That journey included a nightmare journey across the Mediterranean Sea in a sinking boat.
Eventually Mohammed, his father and uncle made it to Germany, a country he had always dreamed of playing football in. He has temporary asylum status, meaning he could still be sent back to Italy (the country where he first landed). But he is now training with FV Ravensburg, a fifth tier team who have a history of nurturing young talent.
You can also hear more from Mohammed about his escape from Syria in this week’s BBC World Service World Football podcast.