Five footballs designed by young artists will raise funds for refugee sports programmes

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, announced the winners of the second annual Youth with Refugees Art Contest, which celebrated the power of sport to bring people together. Five of the winning designs are featured on footballs available for sale online and proceeds will go toward sport programmes for refugees.

Over 1,600 young artists from 100 countries submitted artwork and football designs related to the “Together through Sport” theme. A third of participants were themselves refugees, asylum-seekers or internally displaced people. The full list of winners can be found here.

“For young people uprooted by war, sport is a great way to feel included and protected,” said Pauline Eluère, who leads youth engagement initiatives at UNHCR. “Through the art contest, we wanted to give young artists a chance to use their talents to demonstrate the transformative power of sport and mobilize support for sport programmes for displaced communities.”

The footballs will be produced in partnership with Alive and Kicking, a not-for-profit ball manufacturer. The balls will be on sale online until the end of October 2021. For each ball sold, £15 will be donated to UNHCR programmes that provide refugees access to sport facilities and equipment.

The production of the balls⁠ will also generate income for refugees and vulnerable adults across Sub-saharan Africa.

“Alive and Kicking are delighted to be partnering with UNHCR on their Youth with Refugees Art Contest,” said Ben Sadler, CEO of Alive and Kicking. “Not only will it showcase the fantastic art and design skills of young refugees and supporters across the globe, it will also support ethical employment at Alive and Kicking’s centres while giving thousands of young people access to sport.”

The five winners are Nadira, a 16-year-old Afghan refugee in India; James, a 10-year-old Irish football fan; Hala, a 12-year-old Palestine refugee in Saudi Arabia; Gerald, a 23-year-old refugee footballer from Cameroon living in Italy and advising the Special Olympics, and Skarly, a 12-year old Venezuelan living in a temporary shelter in Brazil.

“I was born a differently abled person,” said Nadira. “The sport world makes us, especially refugees and people who are called disabled but not differently abled, endeavour for the best. I wanted to show how sport can transform people’s lives along with bringing hope and joy to everyone, everywhere”

A jury of athletes, sport journalists and artists helped select the winning submissions.

Alphonso Davies, the Canadian football phenomenon who is also a former refugee and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, said: “The designs were very powerful. It’s amazing to see the vision of these kids and how they perceive a united society.”

The 2021 Youth with Refugees Art contest underscored two issues that are important to UNHCR’s mission: the necessity of young people’s involvement in advocating for those forced to flee and the significance of sport in supporting the physical and mental health of refugees worldwide.

The winning balls are available for sale on Alive and Kicking’s website. The football designs and other winning illustrations have been put on display in a 3D digital exhibition.