Freedom from Torture and Arsenal in the Community celebrate a pioneering partnership

Freedom from Torture’s football group, staff, supporters and Arsenal in the Community gathered at the Emirate’s Stadium in North London to celebrate the success of a pioneering therapeutic model.

The impact report, Tackling Trauma: How football is aiding recovery from torture was launched jointly by both organisations on 22 November and outlines how football sessions have helped survivors of torture.

Selcuk, the therapist for the group, was joined on the panel by Jack Ironside, who runs the group for Arsenal, and two survivors, group members Alex and Victor.

"Football is a great way to bring back that connection with the body that has been lost through the traumas of torture”.

The panel discussed the huge source of comfort that football – a familiar and universal sport – brings to survivors of torture who are living far from home. Selcuk explained how the football has many powers, among them the ability to break down barriers and bring people together from all background, languages, cultures and experiences.

Jack said: “Some of the guys have been with us for six years, so we have seen their highs and lows. We see people’s confidence and fitness and English improve. It sounds complicated, but ultimately, it’s about looking after each other.”

The benefits of this therapeutic model was echoed by Freedom from Torture therapist Rebecca Hall. She said: "Football is a great way to bring back that connection with the body that has been lost through the traumas of torture”.

“Some of the guys have been with us for six years, so we have seen their highs and lows. We see people’s confidence and fitness and English improve. It sounds complicated, but ultimately, it’s about looking after each other.”

Community building and group work is increasingly recognised as key to rehabilitation for survivors of torture, and the football group incorporates both. The nature of the football sessions makes it necessary for players to interact, build relationships and trust with each other, and feel valued and connected.

Real voices

“The group is more than therapy, it is our family”

Football can literally be a lifeline for someone who has dealt with torture, loss and is facing tremendous uncertainty in their future.
Read Selcuk's blog

Victor, a torture survivor and member of the football group said, “If you see where I was and where I am now, there is a world of difference. I always hoped I would play football again.”

“The role of Arsenal, a well-known and recognised club worldwide, has been invaluable to the football players and is hugely important to our community”.

In the closing speech, Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture said she was “blown away” by the success of the project and the sense of pride in the room:  “The role of Arsenal, a well-known and recognised club worldwide, has been invaluable to the football players and is hugely important to our community”.

Freedom from Torture is very proud of the partnership with Arsenal in the Community. For survivors of torture from countries across the globe, finding their voices and rebuilding their lives in the safety of the UK is a considerable challenge.

Having been through one of the worst human experiences imaginable, the football group is a small victory in the long road to recovery.

Football Groups

Our football groups are a lifeline for torture survivors and provide a space to make new friends within the community, improve communication skills, and fight against exclusion and isolation. Click below to find out more about our football groups and the therapeutic benefits they offer.

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