Founded by Yusuf Suali and Alee Vyabandi in 2013, We Are Here Football Club brings together refugees whose asylum requests have been denied and who therefore are not allowed to stay in The Netherlands, yet, who cannot return to their home countries either. They found themselves trapped in a precarious state of limbo, where they as undocumented migrants do not possess the right to have rights and are inescapably and inaccurately associated with being ‘illegal.’ Coming from various countries of African continent, what unites them is not only the notable ‘We Are Here’ movement or the common disputable status quo, but first and foremost - the football game.
In the football field, all that matters is to play along. In the football field, all that matters is to play together. The familiar attributes of the game - popular, accessible, and easily comprehensible - reveal the implicit virtues of equality, unity and integrity; and at the same time diminish any other just as every other possible type of difference. While being aware of the potential political power of the game itself, I from a position of a visual storyteller wonder how to translate that what happens within the margins of a football field into a larger societal context?
Significantly, this project appropriates the language of popular football culture and functions as a campaign to give the players recognition they rightfully deserve. Yet, in like manner, it aims to reveal who the players are, how their life is, and what it means to play when being in limbo. What else - if anything - could be the epiphany which would convince the football supporters as well as the political figures to acknowledge that the human rights shall be just as equally bound to the status of a citizen as to the status of a refugee and to expedite the matters of integration rather than defence?
Together with Menno de Bruijn we initiated campaigning and merchandising for the We Are Here Football Club in order to answer the question: What is the role of art when collaborating with the politically sensible? How can we, from the position of a visual storyteller and a graphic designer, help the football club achieve what they need and still be authors?
This collaborative project carries its title after the initiative itself in an honouring manner and aims to share the authorship among all parties involved, We Are Here Football Club, Katarína Gališinová, Menno de Bruijn and Annette Kouwenhoven.