TV Documentary set to showcase Harlow’s Migrants United

Football / Tue 2nd Aug 2022 at 07:58am

IT’S not unusual to see Premier League teams with as many different nationalities as they have players. It’s less common in the Harlow District League. But Changing Lives FC, the subject of a new documentary, has no less than 11 different nationalities. What’s more, its players come from some of the most dangerous and war-torn regions in the world.

Changing Lives FC is the UK’s only refugee and migrant football team. Many of its players have risked their lives, in the most harrowing and inhumane circumstances, to make their way to the UK in search of a better life.

The new three-part tv series, Migrants United, follows the players on their quest to win the Harlow District League. However, for young men like team captain, Fethi Ahmed, 23, from Harlow, there is far more than football glory at stake. He and many of the other players face an ongoing fight to stay in the safety and freedom of the UK.

Fethi, who was sent to prison for political reasons as a 16-year-old in Egypt, came to the UK to escape the political persecution his brother and father had both faced in his homeland. His mental health has been severely affected by his experiences and in 2019 he reached breaking point – trying to kill himself by jumping off London Bridge. Since then, Changing Lives FC has been a refuge for him, providing a much-needed sense of purpose. Due to his standout skills on the pitch, Fethi was made captain by coach Dave Simmons.

Fellow player Ussri Badawi, 21, from Harlow was just 14 years old when he was forced to flee the Darfur genocide in his home country of Sudan.  According to the United Human Rights Council, over 400 villages were completely destroyed through the conflict with the Janjaweed militia’s shooting the men and gang-raping the women and children. Ussri speaks five languages and is hugely thankful to Changing Lives FC for providing him with some of the support and companionship he misses from his family who he has lost contact with but believes are still in Sudan.

The series takes viewers beyond the headlines to reveal the real reasons why young people like the players of Changing Lives FC leave everything behind to come to the UK. It’s a story of human resilience in the face of unthinkable hardship and the power of sport to unite and give hope to people with nothing else.  

Head coach David Simmons, 27, Chelmsford, said “Through this documentary, I am delighted to be able to show people the truth and reality of what refugees go through and the journey of our team as we hope to achieve great things. The players are an inspiration to everyone. I hope the series captivates and unites the nation through football, and  enables the viewers to connect to the human side of the players.” 

Emily Chapman, Producer, said “Our ultimate goal is to create positive and deeper connections  between the players and the viewers. After decades of vilification from political and media sources  there is a hostile attitude to ‘illegal’ immigrants coming to the UK to ‘scrounge off the system’.  The series aims to show that for the falsehood it is by getting to know the players as people, showing their love for the game and each other; before revealing the tragic circumstances from which they came to the UK.”

Emily continues “David, the team’s manager, is a salt of the earth Essex lad who is a fantastic role model and front man for everything this show is about. He has an infectious positive energy and is a beacon of  light and a symbol of positivity, and in these dark and uncertain times, we need more people like him on screen.” 

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