Today we mark World Refugee Day, a day to remember those fleeing from violence and think about solutions. The muaythai family reaches out in different ways to the refugee community around the world, and today we celebrate that community spirit.
Fair play is one of the five pillars of muaythai, and what could encapsulate that more than reaching out to children who have been denied the chance of a normal life through no fault of their own? Refugee and displaced children miss out on the community and companionship created through sports clubs, and on the pride of their home at events.
But this is something which being on the IFMA refugee team can restore to them.
IFMA general secretary Stephan Fox said: “Children are the innocents of the world, they have no understanding of war or conflict, they have no influence, but they are the ones who suffer. Through muaythai we can offer them a chance to be children again, to play and meet other children.
“At our events, these children can lean new skills or practice skills they acquired at home – they are respected. Fair play, respect and excellence are three of the pillars our sport is built upon, and we are proud to offer these children that through the work our federations do around the world.”
The work of the United Through Sport programme under Sport Ability Global will play a key role in this, he said, going forward.
During the 2017 Youth World Championships in Bangkok, the Lebanese team travelled with some special guests – a group of displaced children who eagerly took the chance to compete under the IFMA flag. The young boys and girls took an active part in the tournament, and took place of honour during the Gala celebrations at the end of the tournament.
Earlier this year Peace and Sport – an organisation IFMA is proud to partner with – led sports activities for refugee children in the camps along the Jordanian border. This is the spirit in which the Lebanese Muaythai Federation under Sami Kiblawi also acts.
The German team took a similarly generous approach during the European Championships, held in Paris last year. A young man from Tajikistan – Mahmud Davlatov – travelled with the muaythai team under special dispensation from Germany. When asked how he felt standing in the line-up with all the other teams during the Opening Ceremony, he smiled shyly and said simply: ‘I felt like a legend.’
Again competing under the IFMA Refugee team banner, he did his sponsors especially Detlef Turnau MTBD and family proud – allowing him to take part in a sport he’d loved a teen at home in Tajikistan, and represent the German muaythai family which has taken him in.
And more recently during the Sport Accord convention – held for the first time in Bangkok – a group of displaced children arrived in Bangkok to take part in the inaugural Sport Festival.
This was a historically significant event as it was the first time children from the Myanmar border camps were formally taken into Thailand for an event.
The children put on an inspiring display in the Children’s Choir, and took part in sports and arts activities during the 3-day festival.
Mr Fox confirmed that this year’s Youth World in August will again see young children participating under the IFMA Refugee flag.