A Liverpool mother was in tears when she opened her phone and read a message on WhatsApp.
Comfort Etim, 38, was kidnapped as a teenager and held against her will in the UK before playing football professionally for the Tottenham Hotspur women’s team.
During a two-week stay in Liverpool from London in 2008, an elderly woman said, ‘Are you okay my love? Upon arriving at Lime Street Station, she felt welcome in the midst of the depression after initially being denied asylum.
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The two-week trip continues thirteen years later, and Comfort’s son Ezekiel has since joined.
Eager to return to her love, Comfort created a football team made up mostly of female refugees and asylum seekers from as far away as Birkenhead and Widnes.
Originally from Nigeria, where she played professionally, her own experience with the asylum system, and her success on the other end, is the driving force behind the project.
Comfort’s goal with the team is to âempower them, promote inclusion, promote good health and improve mental healthâ for women with stress and anxiety in an asylum system ” intimidating “.
She told ECHO: âA lot of women would be so depressed, and that’s something I experienced myself.
“Having had this lived experience of the asylum system, I want a safe space where women can come and, even if it’s just for this moment, forget about everything else and just have fun.”
Initially a 12-week-old pilot with Refugee Women Connect, the team had no soccer shoes or shirts, and was initially a little player when they entered her first tournament two years ago.
But in the end they won a game.
Comfort said, âYou could just see how passionate they were about not giving up from the start.
âWe had nothing. I mean, we had nothing.
âIt could have been disheartening for them, but they kept coming. “
She added: “These women could go through whatever they go through in terms of their asylum claims, or any situation they go through, and still be able to play football.
“That’s what makes me want to continue with the team.
âEven when it’s snowing and raining, I go to the WhatsApp group and I’m like ‘Ladies, I’m going to have to cancel today, the weather is bad’.
“You’ll get a lot of thumbs down, ‘No we want to play’.”
Supported by the Liverpool County Football Association, the LFC Foundation and Amnesty International, the Comfort Angels team won their first tournament, the She Inspires League, in November this year.
Comfort told ECHO: “Every time we go we are beaten. We are either the last or the penultimate, and now we are second.
“Actually the last one, oh my god I literally cried. I couldn’t do it.”
She added, “There was always this fear that, ‘Oh my god, I couldn’t leave them alone.’
“And to my surprise, they went, they played and they won.”
Comfort was in tears when she saw the message on WhatsApp saying they had won, followed by an email from the Liverpool County Football Association congratulating them.
She said it was “so beautiful” to receive this news.
The 38-year-old, who does advocacy, police and case work for Refugee Women Connect, told ECHO: âI feel so excited. I feel fulfilled.
âI told them, ‘Now I can go to another town and train another Comfort Angels knowing you would be fine.
âSo if I move to Birmingham, I can now go there knowing that you are ready, you are ready.
âI feel really fulfilled, I feel really happy, I feel encouraged, you know, I feel really, really encouraged to keep going.
“It gave me hope to look to the future.”
Comfort continued, “For me, it’s just exciting that they are in love with football, and for three of them to indicate that they want to take the referee course, it’s just the icing on the cake. cake.
âI wasn’t expecting it. I thought it would just be a soccer team where we play and have fun.
âBut they’ve taken the bull by the horns and they’re going ahead and playing tournaments.
“What more can I ask for?” “