Refugee from Moria Camp Signs Professional Football Contract with Greek Club



Alia Camara and the destroyed Moria migrant and refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. File photo

The Historic Greek football club Panionios announced on Tuesday that a refugee from the West African nation of Guinea signed a contract to play with the team in late October.

Twenty-two-year-old Alia Camara came to Greece on a boat from Turkey when he was just 17 years of age.

He traveled to Turkey from his home country after he was promised a contract with a football team there. Since it had been Camara’s dream to play football, naturally he eagerly accepted the deal — which turned out to be a scam which left the teenager penniless.

Upon arriving in Greece, Camara was sent to Moria, Greece’s notoriously overcrowded refugee camp, the largest in Europe, which burned down after a series of fires in September.

While in the camp, located on the Greek island of Lesvos, Camara explained his situation to everyone he could — including his love for football, the scam he fell victim to in Turkey, and his desire to play the sport in Greece.

With the help of a Greek couple, whom he calls his parents, who heard his story, Camara was able to submit his papers to legally reside in Greece, and was put in contact with Panionios, the historic Greek football club.

Panionios, the oldest such club in Greece, was founded in 1890 in Smyrna, in what is now Turkey. After the destruction of the city in 1922, the surviving Greek residents of the city, including the entire club, were forced to relocate to Greece as refugees.

Panionios, along with many refugees from Smyrna, found a new home in the Athenian suburb of Nea Smyrni (New Smyrna).

The connection between Camara’s refugee status and the club’s history moved the owners of Panionios, who offered the talented young player a contract to play for the team.

Camara is understandably overjoyed to have finally achieved his dream of playing soccer in his new home country.