Idlib, Syria – While the world tuned into the European UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid on Saturday, hundreds of Syrians in opposition-held Idlib province were focused on something else: the final of a youth football tournament in the middle of an industrial district.
The two teams that made it to the final walked out onto an astroturf field to a cheering audience. “The Dreams” beat “The Stars” 2-1, lifted their winners’ trophy, and celebrated with confetti and firecrackers.
The tournament was organised by the Violet Organization charity, which over the years has worked on projects to renovate schools, parks and public spaces in the opposition enclave. The teenagers taking part in the tournament all have to work to help provide for their families.
The United Nations estimates that 97 percent of people in Idlib live in extreme poverty. Many families have had to put their children to work to survive.
Violet Organization hoped that a football tournament that brought child workers together from different parts of the province would “bring joy” into their lives.
“All these kids work in industrial areas, and work dangerous jobs that are a risk to their wellbeing,” the charity’s programme coordinator, Ibrahim Sarmini, told Al Jazeera.