I was born in Africa in 199x. I have been living in Italy – precisely in Sicily – for two years. Up to not long ago I played for a football team. Playing football has been my passion since I was a kid. Back then, in my Country, I used to go to school and play football in the street with my friends. I used to attend a private school near my house but after two years, I was sent off because my father couldn’t afford the tuition fees. While the other kids went to school, I was forced to stay at home. I was far too young to understand the situation, I just wanted to go back to school with the other kids.
I attended school until the age of 15, after the coup d’état I had to quit it because getting out of the house became too dangerous. I spent every day at home, doing nothing but talking to my mum and sister. I could hear gunshots in the street, it was scary. Soldiers fired and killed each other and innocent people, they broke into houses and shops and stole whatever they could find. I ran away from the city and hid in the suburbs hoping that the firing would stop and peace would be restored. Unfortunately, though, nothing changed and I decided to flee the country. I left without saying goodbye to anybody. I arrived in Algeria, then in Libya where I thought I could settle down but the situation was dangerous there too. I understood I could die at any time. I then decided to cross the sea on a dinghy.
Travelling on the dinghy was extremely difficult: there were so many people, I had never seen the sea before and it frightened me, the smell of petrol made me sick. A friend of mine helped me and held my head between his knees. At one point I fell asleep, I was sure I was dying because I had no energy left. When I woke up, I felt a bit better but every time I looked at the sea, I got scared again. The Italian Navy rescued us and brought us to Augusta. After checking each one of us, we were hosted in a school (called Scuole Verdi) converted into a refugees centre and this is where my new adventure started.
*Photo Copyright: Federica Simeoli
At first I really didn’t want to stay there: I couldn’t eat because I was not used to the food they gave us and also, I couldn’t communicate properly because I spoke French and not English. I wasn’t feeling well and I didn’t know how to explain it to the doctor. Luckily, a girl who started volunteering at the centre spoke French, she helped me. I could talk to her about everything and that made me feel less lonely. She understood I needed a doctor and took me to see her dentist who treated me and gave me a fantastic smile. I remember spending entire days doing nothing but sleeping.
Another girl who used to come and teach us Italian offered to tutor me. I remember that day too as one of the luckiest of my life. She took us to the countryside and at night we went to parties or to eat pizza. And that’s when time started going by faster! During a celebration in the village, I met a friend of my tutors and he asked me to join a football team with which I’ve played for 2 years. I went and lived on my own which made me feel so lonely, it was a very tough time for me. I was happy to see my tutors every Saturday and Sunday.
I still want to play football but I’d also like to earn a little money to send to my family in Africa. I like it here in Italy but I miss my family, my land with its food and traditions. When something good or bad happens to me, I think about my family and hope I’ll see them again soon.
The author wishes to remain anonymous.
Original article in Italian here
Translator Francesca Colantuoni