NEW YORK/ATHENS (June 18, 2018) – The Youri Djorkaeff Foundation (YDF) and UNICEF are partnering to provide a soccer training camp to refugee and migrant children in Athens this summer.

Greece remains one of the major entry points into Europe for refugees and migrants. According to UNICEF’s latest data, an estimated 22,500 refugee and migrant children are currently in the country, many of whom (3,400) are without the care and protection of a family member or guardian.

This partnership aims to foster social inclusion and pave the way for greater integration between refugees and host communities through sports. Together, YDF and UNICEF want to provide participants with an opportunity to learn about the values sportsmanship such as, cooperation, leadership, and teamwork and at the same time enhance their social and emotional skills. For the thousands of refugee and migrant children who have been uprooted by violence and conflict, soccer offers a chance for them to be kids again, restoring a sense of normalcy in their lives.

“Through our partnership with UNICEF, we want to reach out to vulnerable refugee youths, make them know they matter and help them to rise and dream again,” said Mr. Youri Djorkaeff, YDF President. “We want every child to be able to play and discover the power of football.”

The project will begin in Athens on the 18th of June with more than 160 refugee and migrant children participating in daily training sessions in two urban locations. The trainings will be managed by UNICEF’s implementing partner Organization Earth, a local Greek NGO, along with UNICEF and YDF coordinators on the ground.

“A child uprooted may be called a refugee or migrant, but first and foremost, a child is a child, and play – in all of its forms – is the right of every child,” said Caryl M. Stern, President and CEO, UNICEF USA. “We are incredibly excited to partner with The Youri Djorkaeff Foundation and Organization Earth to give children in Greece the opportunity to feel included in a community through sport, and have a safe space to play, learn and be a kid again.”

Partnership highlights include daily training sessions for girls and boys between twelve and seventeen years old, as well as a series of educational and recreational activities each Friday throughout the duration of the project.

“UNICEF values immensely the role of sports in children’s development as it provides them with the opportunity to build a positive self-esteem, improve their physical and emotional health, strengthen their skills and build bridges among each other,” said Lucio Melandri, Country Coordinator for UNICEF’s Refugee and Migrant Response in Greece. “The Youri Djorkaeff Foundation has a proven record of promoting the values of teamwork, collaboration, and mutual respect one another and we look forward to working with them and our implementing partner, Organization Earth, in providing refugee and migrant children in Greece with a quality sports education project.”

YDF and UNICEF aim to expand their collaboration, giving the opportunity to refugee and migrant children in refugee camps and in other urban locations in the country to become part of a wider soccer movement.


Notes to Editors:

UNICEF continues to call on governments to adopt its six-point agenda for action to protect migrant and refugee children and ensure their wellbeing:

1. Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence

2. End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, by introducing a range of practical alternatives

3. Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status

4. Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services

5. Press for action on the underlying causes of large scale movements of refugees and migrants

6. Promote measure to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination



The Youri Djorkaeff Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by the 1998 French World Cup Champion and professional soccer player, Youri Djorkaeff. The YDF uses football as a means to empower disadvantage children. The organization is committed to ensure that every child’s right to play is respected, regardless of the child’s location, social status, abilities, father, gender or origin.

For more information about YDF and it works, visit:

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The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to put children first. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. UNICEF USA supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when no children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit

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About Organization Earth

Organization Earth is a Greek non-profit organization founded in 2010 that pursues its mission through programmes that combine: Environmental Action, Social Inclusion for Refugees, Migrants, People with Disabilities, Long-term Unemployed and Sustainable Entrepreneurship.

For more information on Organization Earth and its work, visit:

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About UNICEF-YDF partnership

The partnership between YDF and UNICEF is committed to the vision that every child, with a special focus to refugee and migrant children in Greece, receive quality football training, allowing them to develop their skills, build confidence about their own capabilities, and giving them the opportunity to share joyful moments with their peers.


For further information, please contact:

Ann Reinking Whitener, Public Relations, UNICEF USA,, +1 212 922 2623

Olga Siokou-Siova, Communications Specialist, UNICEF Refugee and Migrant Response in Greece, +30 697 3227159

Malorie Cornier, Youri Djorkaeff Foundation Director