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While some of us are celebrating, others are deported…

Barcelona, Tuesday 29 November 2016, dia cuatro, in the evening.

The Coaching Crew of FC Lampedusa St. Pauli have swapped their tracksuit tops for little black dresses. Half an hour later, the hairdo is perfect too. The makeup conjures some brilliance in our slightly overtired eyes. Months of planning are finally coming to fruition: the result of hundreds of emails exchanged between us and the organisers of the City to City Barcelona FAD Award, and the Foreigners’ Registration Office. A heap of paperwork had to be completed in order to make it possible for 11 of our players to make this journey with us. In addition, just two days before departure, there were frantic negotiations with the airline – in a sudden attempt to thwart our plans in the eleventh hour they were refusing to accept the papers of some of our players. However, after fantastic teamwork with our hosts, the City of Barcelona and the FC Barcelona, the airline eventually confirmed that FCLSP could travel with all our registered players. This confirmation coming just 15 hours before we were due to fly.
Never did we expect that an airline would doubt travel-documents that were issued in Germany. You never stop learning. On top of this, two of the young players, we would also have liked to take with us to Barcelona, were forced to leave Germany during the application process. That alone was bad enough.
The players were freshening up too, and we looked forward to seeing which of them would win the “shirt of the day contest” – one of our favourite competitions at FCLSP.
In five minutes time, our fantastic hosts would pick us up at the hostel’s reception and bring us to the presentation of the City to City Barcelona FAD Award 2016, the actual reason of this trip.

“Bing! Bing!” – a WhatsApp message comes in. It is from one of our FCLSP players who had an appointment with the foreigners’ registration office in Hamburg earlier this morning. He hadn’t got in touch with us all day and we were already worrying that the reason for his silence was him having switched off all his phone in sorrow, after being ‘asked’ to leave Germany within one week.
Reading the first sentence on the lock screen already did enough to bring us back to the harsh reality:

“…it’s not a good situation, I’m in a closed camp right now near the airport. I have to stay here till 2/12/16 and then they will deport me…“

We try hard not to burst into tears and to keep calm. There’s no time for a second makeup session.
Why now, during our stay in Barcelona? Why did he not get another extension? He already had to be at the foreigners’ registration office every Monday anyway, getting his short-term permit extended for another week? Why does it seem to be unwanted that FCLSP can properly bid farewell to its players?
Why is the new “Deportation Custody Facility”, which the City of Hamburg operates at the airport, filled with our midfielder while we are here – in the limelight – being presented an award for “outstanding project work”? Why do deportations take place on a home match day of FC St. Pauli?
And why on earth is our habibi locked up in this new facility as only the fifth person ever to have been detained there? ALONE, apart from twenty around-the-clock present employees of above mentioned office and a security service, while we are in Barcelona, feeling like we are being carried on hands, because our project made it to the final three of the City to City Barcelona FAD Award 2016 competition, out of the 100 entries submitted?

What on earth is wrong with our world?

At least, the memories we share with this player reeling in our mind’s eye prevent us from sinking into a sea of tears. You grow with your tasks, as the German phrase goes. But it is still so unfair!
Of course, we knew right from the start of this project that this sort of pain would be involved, but still Hamburg’s Ministry of the Interior, Youth and Sport somehow manages to ever produce new variations of an ugly face. The more arbitrarily the deportations are scheduled, the more brazen the methods get. But sitting there wailing has never helped anyone.
We do not want to be just another set of “do-gooders” providing only help. However, we can only achieve integration within structures which allow us to do it. The mere fact that Hamburg’s Ministry of the Interior, Youth and Sport is ONE municipal authority speaks for itself. Maybe it is even the reason why our habibi, in his first reception container camp, got a room with a view of the FCSP training facilities? Sometimes, when nothing else helps, it is cynicism that can still make us laugh.

We do what we always do in situations like this: we keep calm. A short phone call with the solicitor and the fiancée of our midfielder and then we have to leave for the awards ceremony.
The players notice that something isn’t okay. Some ask us, others do not. We do not want to spoil the first and – perhaps – only holiday of their lives. Their anxieties and sorrows left in Hamburg for a couple of days will be with them again on their return. The players shall enjoy themselves during their stay and forget their problems for a while
The absurdity gradually sinks in. For three years now, you’ve given your all to a project which has become internationally renowned, wins awards… and then you’re brought back to reality in such a terrible way. Over the last three days, we were having so much fun; had so many wonderful people around us; shared great conversations and experienced very positive press coverage of our trip.

And the City of Hamburg? Puts one of our players, all alone, into a jail which they don’t even want to call a jail and fabricate disgusting terms like “departure custody” for such thing? In particular at a time, when we are out of town for a couple of days? One of our habibis?
A guy to become only the fifth person to be put into the new deportation jail at Hamburg Airport.
The reel keeps running in our mind’s eye.

In front of Barcelona City Hall, Christmas decorations sparkle. The timetable is tight. No time for a cool down cigarette or another make up check. The waterproof mascara fortunately stands the single tears. In the outer office of Mayor Ada Colau all the winners and award presenters are gathering. Everybody approaches us: “What a great project”, “So good to have you here”.
Actually, we should be grateful and happy in this very moment. However, we do not really feel like celebrating. We try to hide that feeling. But why should we keep the situation a secret? Jordi Cardoner, vice-chairman of the FC Barcelona Foundation, is the first to face reality. Everyone shakes their heads in disbelief. And so it remains for the rest of the night.
The door opens and Ada Colau comes in. A short reception and then it gets started. We try to focus on our address and go over our speech again, word by word. Our gratefulness for the award and the invitation shall, at the end of the day, be shown appropriately. One of us gives the address in Catalan for two minutes and the other then proceeds in English. Distraction therapy, given the events of the day.
We manage to do it with aplomb. The following marathon of handshakes, taking photos and talks to the press does us good, because it shows that we apparently do something right.
In any case, we continue to pose for photos. “Tell us when you need something”, is one of the central sentences of the night, no matter who we talk to. This does us good, warms our hearts and recharges our batteries for the coming months. Back in Hamburg, we will definitely need 100% recharged batteries.

“We would love to clone your mayor, Ada Colau, and take her with us to Hamburg,” we reply. Usually, we’re at our funniest when things are at their worst, because we know that we mean it.

And then, we go outside for a cigarette and to call the jail – of which it is said not to be a jail, because it has free WiFi…

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We go to Barcelona!

You will not believe where we go on the 26 of November, what we do there and who we will meet. We are so impressed.
Thank you so much City to City Barcelona FAD Awards, FC Barcelona, FCSP Fanclub Catalunya and all who make this happen.

Fanclub Catalunya write:
“FC Lampedusa St. Pauli has been awarded with an special mention in the “City to City Barcelona FAD Awards” and its trainers and some players will be a few days in Barcelona for the ceremony. And, therefore, Fanclub Catalunya have organized a meeting with them!
Sunday 27 November
Place: in l’Octubre, Casal Independentista de Poblenou (86 Badajoz Str, Barcelona)
12:00h musical vermouth aperitif
13:00h talk with one representant of Fanclub Catalunya, one of the “City to City Barcelona FAD Awards” and the coaches of FC Lampedusa
14:30h lunch for everybody (paella)
Then, we will go to the FCBarcelona Sports City to encourage the FC Lampedusa in the friendly match against the youth guys of the Confederation of Fanclubs of FCBarcelona at 18:00h.

We ask you to help us to share this event, please! We want to be a lot of people for supporting to FC Lampedusa in Barcelona! many thanks!”

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One Saturday in October. Scenes of a – forced – farewell.

Hamburg Bus Port, the central coach station of the “Free“ and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, the Gateway to the world. An elderly woman watches the happenings around her, she’s been doing it for two hours already. Whenever the group moves, she does too, like a shadow. She tries to figure out what’s going on and who exactly this group of people might be. She doesn’t ask any questions.
Other passengers did that already. So she could obtain some information “Oh, a football team? Lovely! Where are you going?” the cruise passengers queuing up for their bus ask.

Well, we, our WE that is, is going nowhere today. Sadly!
Certainly, we would prefer to go elsewhere, too – playing a friendly match or a tournament with friends, for instance. “We have to say goodbye to two of our players again, because two of our brothers and their families were ordered to leave the country!” one of our players explains. “Oh no, that’s terrible“, one lady says while another one asks “Why?”. So the players of FC Lampedusa St. Pauli tell the waiting people the story of the past two years: a story of hoping and waiting, of panic and the permanent fear of the police coming for them in the middle of the night – as happened to another one of our fellow players and his family – even though their legal advisor told them that there was nothing to worry about.
The people around become aware that it’s not easy subject for the players to talk about. Their eyes show fear, the fear of possibly being the next. Many of the waiting tourists have children themselves, kids of the same age. It is the autumn holidays in Hamburg. People leave the city for a quick break from the grey rainy sky, to “catch some rays“and for some lazy days on deck of a cruise ship. Having some days away from stress at school and the pressure to gain good marks.

The two boys and their three younger siblings, together with their single mom, being ordered to leave Hamburg and their football family would be all too happy if they could swap places with the other kids, including the stress and pressure. Instead, they have to leave, to go ‘OUT’, right in the middle of the school year, right in the middle of the holidays. Without having the chance to say goodbye to their friends and teachers and without getting given their school reports, which would be the prerequisite to attend school in their so called “safe country of origin” – assuming that you have the necessary funds and you’re not a member of an ethnic minority.

More and more players arrive at the bus station, to greet their ‘bros’ and if you didn’t know the actual reason for this gathering, you would easily think it was part of an ordinary weekend in the life of FC Lampedusa St. Pauli.

They now all sign a brand new ball which is passed on quietly and without touching the ground. After all, it should not get dirty. The German dirt should be left where it is, one of the players says roughly. It’s a distraction, to have the feeling of togetherness in these hard times.

At least, the sun shines. At “home”, which the older ones only call “back there” and of which the younger siblings have absolutely no idea of, winter is near already. The day before they had to quickly buy new winter jackets, says R., the friendly retiree, who was looking after the family over the past two years, so warm-heartedly. It is also him who seeks to talk to the coach company employee in the office, after the drivers from “new old home“ refused to accept their luggage. Two years of living in Hamburg are spread on the platform: one big plastic bag per person. The mothers question about the extra charge she wouldn’t mind paying is not answered. A first impression – to outsiders – about the fate this family is to face in about 21 hours time. It is not even necessary to speak the same language to see and understand how racist and discriminating the future of this Roma family will be.

Meanwhile, the elderly lady still watches the happenings. In a way, she has already become a part of our group of grievers. One of the players and the love of his life have to part, which is amongst the biggest and most heartbreaking drama on this sunny morning. She can stay while he has to get ‘OUT‘. Everything that gave them and their young lives a sort of comfort in this extremely difficult year is now taken away from them. For people at this age nine months – the term of the entry ban applying to the entire family – is a very long time. They’re still too young to marry; otherwise, it would have been way more difficult to tear this young couple apart.  

While the team is still talking insistently to the coach drivers, tears burst out of people again and again. R., the good old soul, returns with the positive info that the luggage may finally be loaded for an extra charge. Everyone gives a hand to stow the bags in the most space-saving way. The FC Lampedusa St. Pauli players get into the coach’s luggage compartment, packing and piling bags and cases. After all, there’ll be more people getting on board during the long journey. Perhaps some of them sharing a similar fate.

While we’re all crying and taking pictures with the, newly sympathetic, almost befriended coach drivers, the elderly lady wonders if the starting point for that man, who took care of everything so warmheartedly, was a situation similar to the one she has just witnessed in this bus station on this Saturday in October. Maybe she wonders if she too should look for a family, and support them?
This, we do not know. But what we do know is that we cannot and do not want to emotionally endure weekends like this ever again.

This is why we keep on going, raise awareness, pool more strength and – with our football family – to play our part in creating a better world where everyone finds him or her self-a place to live, that they have chosen. A world where all people can live everywhere they want to, where they feel home, where they can be whatever they are and where it absolutely does not matter in which corner of this one world they and/or their parents were born. 
All stay – where they want!
here to play – here to stay!

All the best, your FC Lampedusa St. Pauli

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