MADRID –– One Syrian migrant and his young son are starting a new life in Madrid today –– a week after being seen around the world as they were sent sprawling by a Hungarian camerawoman.
A football academy based in the city has stepped in to provide Osama Abdul Mohsen –– a former coach himself –– a job and accommodation in a suburb of the Spanish capital.
Mohsen was running through a field close to the Hungarian border, carrying his eight-year old son Zaid, when he was tripped up by camerawoman Petra Laszlo. The video of the incident sparked international outrage and Laszlo was fired by her network.
Mohsen picked himself and Zaid up and continued their odyssey, reaching Munich.
In a letter to the daily Hungarian newspaper, Magyar Nemzet, Laszlo said she thought the migrants would attack her after they broke through a police cordon.
“I am very sorry for the incident, and as a mother I am especially sorry for the fact that fate pushed a child in my way. I did not see that at that moment. I started to panic and as I re-watch the film, it seems as it was not even me,” her letter states.
Moved by the plight of father and son, Miguel Angel Galan –– president of CENAFE, a football academy in Madrid –– reached out to Martin Mucha, a journalist with the Spanish daily, El Mundo, in an attempt to find them.
Accompanied by Arabic-speaking footballer Mohamed Labrouzi, who plays for Villaverde in Spain, Mucha set out to find Mohsen. According to his account, they scoured Munich –– where thousands of refugees have arrived –– and eventually found Mohsen.
He was watching a Champions’ League game in a Munich café.
At first Mohsen did not believe anyone would want to help him. But, Labrouzi told him that “a man called Miguel was moved by your story. He is a friend and trusted me with the logistics.”
Within hours, Mohsen and Zaid were on a flight to Paris, and from there a long train journey to Madrid, where they arrived late yesterday.
“It’s a dream for me to be here. Thank you Madrid, thank you Spain,” said Mohsen to the Spanish press upon arrival. He hopes his wife and two daughters can join him in the capital.
Luis Miguel Pedraza of CENAFE told Spanish media yesterday: “We’re giving him a hand as a humanitarian gesture. Later we’ll look for something. He’s interested in our school.
“The first thing is to get him settled.”
The school will help Mohsen, Zaid and other members of their family apply for asylum and move them into a house in Getafe, where they will pay for the family’s living cost, until they can support themselves. Spain has agreed to take some 17,000 of the refugees that have flooded into Europe.
Mohsen has plenty of challenges ahead. He speaks a little English but no Spanish. But he does know quite a bit about football, having coached in the Syrian first division. Some of the players he has worked with have been killed; others are refugees like him.
Galan, who is also running for president at the Spanish FA, told the media minnows Villaverde Boetticher and Móstoles have already inquired about hiring Mohsen. He will do some administration for CENAFE, until he passes his coaching badges and learns Spanish.
At least in football there are enough globetrotting football coaches out there to suggest that limited language skills are no impediment to success.