"Incredibly, despite seeing so much suffering at such a young age, the light still shines in her eyes."
Text: Josep Giralt
Photo: Jordi Sanglas
Verbina is 12 years old, dark-skinned, and has long, black plaits like olive branches. She could be a Leo Tolstoy heroine. Not just because of her courageous attitude and her open, noble character, but also because of the strength and determination she conveys. If character is fate, then it will be hard for the future to dampen her resilience. Her exile commenced on the day she fled from Iran, as the golden light was just beginning to strike the bazaars and filter through the skylights.
She walked 2,258 kilometres from her native Iran to Turkey. A journey that she was forced to make under the blazing sun, in temperatures of over fifty degrees Celsius. She left behind a childhood where her mother would read her stories of wolves and rabbits, glow worms, orange trees, and poems by Hafez de Shiraz.
One million people are living in exile in Lebanon. A veritable wave of humanity being pushed by despair. Verbina now lives with her family in the Bekaa Valley refugee camp, surrounded by arid mountains.
The Iranian girl wants to be a doctor. "What I would like to do most is save a lot of people," she says. Incredibly, despite seeing so much suffering at such a young age, the light still shines in her eyes.
Verbina is one of the beneficiaries of the Barça Foundation refugee programme, which hopes to build the strength of refugee children and give them the tools to prevent and resolve conflicts and foster social inclusion and integration. "It has been very hard” she says. But FutbolNet has helped me to make friends and also to forget. I have the most fun when I'm playing football. I don't like to remember the bad times."
The refugees in Bekaa are in a very difficult situation. There are no easy answers when it comes to explaining their plight. But sport helps them to cope with the traumas caused by war and exile, and generates emotional well-being and restores their faith in the human race.