Football for a better life

PUMA employee Tesfom Ghebreab strikes a goal for charity with FC Eritrea Berlin

October 13, 2023

PUMA employee Tesfom Ghebreab strikes a goal for charity with FC Eritrea Berlin

October 13, 2023

Our very own PUMA, Tesfom Ghebreab has continued his path on helping Eritrean people, now in his hometown in Berlin, Germany. By founding a football team, he gives refugees a perspective. Read on to learn more about his story! 


In our   interview, you told us a little bit about the football team that you founded, FC Eritrea Berlin. Tell us, how did you come up with this amazing idea?

Tesfom: I came up with the idea to found a football team in 2016, after many people from all over the world came to Germany to find refuge here. I established contacts with the people from Eritrea, who recently came to Germany and we found that we have the same passion, which is football.

On a summer day, we were sitting in the park and one of them asked me, “Do you think it’s possible to play football in a professional league?” I told him that we needed to find at least 11 players to make a team. It took us three weeks and we came up with 17 players! They are all between 18 and 24 years old. They already managed to establish themselves as the second team of the club and compete on a regular league schedule.

That is amazing! How did that feel for them?

Tesfom: Most of them never played in a football league before, but just for fun and with their own rules. But the passion was there and that’s what matters. Since the players were not from Germany or any European country, we had some challenges registering them for FC Eritrea Berlin. But we have managed and it was very emotional for all of us, when we were able to play for the first time. Just the fact that they were playing in an official league in Berlin was a great feeling for them. The team shows up in various soccer apps, and it was amazing for them to see their own names when they scored a goal or were in the lineup.


The team preparing for their next game

And how did it feel for you? Seeing your project become a reality for the first time?

Tesfom: These people I brought together live in containers, without their families, without friends, without connection and without social engagement. It was very important to me to give them a perspective and a routine, by giving them the opportunity to socialize. Seeing the players happy on the field and knowing that we are giving them a perspective fills me with incredible joy.

And what was your biggest challenge at that time?

Tesfom: As you can imagine, our players didn’t have proper soccer shoes because they are very expensive. The same goes for soccer jerseys and training shirts. If you don’t have anything, you can’t just go out and buy all these expensive things. This is when Charity Cat came into the game.

Alexander Lumbe helped me get the support of Charity Cat. We figured out what we needed. Shortly after we got PUMA football shoes for all players, as well as training kits. Later, Charity Cat came up with the idea of sponsoring us with football jerseys, balls and socks. I loved the idea and was overwhelmed by the opportunities they offered our team.

We also had support from the state of Berlin, which took over the monthly club membership fee for all our players.

So, how did FC Eritrea Berlin grow so fast?

Tesfom: In time, we had 48 players on our team. This was due to word of mouth about the good work we were doing here. Anyone who wanted to join could join. It didn’t matter how well the person could play football, as long as they had fun. They get along with each other and know what they are best at. When you love what you do, you get better. We have some good players now and others just support the team off the field. That’s how we keep them together as a team.

At the moment, we play in the “Kreisliga C”. Even though it´s not the highest league, we are of course very proud of how far we have come. Over time, some players have come and gone. Charity Cat continues to support us, we are grateful and couldn’t be happier!

Many players who left us for various reasons, thanked us for giving them back a routine and a perspective. This initiative has helped them find a job, catch up with their families, or adapt to the new culture in Germany. We found out over time that some of the players who left us, are now supporting other players who are in the same situation they were once in. They are now well integrated and know their way around Germany and this is exactly why I started this initiative.

The team continues to grow and people from all over the world join us. We have for instance players from Ukraine and Afghanistan. We now play under the SC Lankwitz umbrella to keep our core team together. This way we can give some really talented players the opportunity to move up to higher leagues and even earn some money playing football.

It really is amazing what you have achieved with this football team for all these people. And how does this connect to your other amazing project, the laptops from PUMA sent to Eritrea?

Tesfom: It is well connected. My fellow Eritreans know about this project and think it is great. They have managed to bring me together with other Eritreans who can contribute to the good cause. So together we were able to get more school equipment, for example two projectors. With the projectors they can now teach whole classes. They will now adjust their daily school schedule to it!

Charity Cat is also willing to help us with the projectors for the next project. The children are so grateful, they even painted an entire wall with a PUMA logo and they call it now PUMA City!

They also have a big football field there, and they would like to build their own football team there as well. They want to dress as a PUMA-Team, just like FC Eritrea Berlin. So this is only the beginning and I cannot wait for our upcoming projects.

Thank you so much, Tesfom! Keep up the good work, you are a really inspiring PUMA for all of us!

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