On Wednesday, February 28th, SWB Baltimore Coach Kat Sipes and alumnus Warshan Hussin headed to the airport to begin their journey to Zurich, Switzerland to attend the 4th annual FIFA Conference for Equality and Inclusion. After a long overnight flight and lots of reading and re-reading Warshan’s speech, we landed in Zurich and were pleasantly greeted with a FIFA sign and escorted to the FIFA hotel.
With just enough time to get settled and take a quick nap, it was already time to head to our first event, a networking dinner at the FIFA World Football Museum. At the networking dinner, we were able to meet so many inspiring champions for equality and inclusion in the game. It was humbling to talk to these advocates and learn more about the work they are doing daily around the world. Warshan was able to relax a little bit after meeting and talking to others, especially when he met an idol of his, Frederic Kanoute. He was especially excited as he posed for a picture next to his home jersey of Iraq. The night was complete by hearing from the first ever female Secretary General for FIFA, Fatma Samoura. Although feeling very empowered by the night and eager for the conference the next day, Warshan and Kat headed back to get some much needed rest (after practicing his speech a few more times).
Warshan and Coach Kat (right) with FIFA's Secretary General, Fatma Samoura
Friday, March 1st was the day we had been preparing for. Nervously eating breakfast and going over what Warshan was excited about or what he needed more prep on, we waited for our transportation to FIFA Headquarters. Upon arrival, Warshan was taken separately and was able to meet others on his panel. Among the panelists were Fatuma Adbulkadir Adan, Founder and Executive Director of Horn of Africa Development Initiative; Loretta Claiborne with Special Olympics International; and Chan Yuen Tong, the first female coach for Hong Kong Premier League. To say the least, Warshan grew more nervous. As the conference attendees filtered in, everyone prepared for the main event, Warshan was finally hooked up to his microphone, and Kat made sure he felt comfortable and ready to tell his story.
“I believe that football has a special power, and one that I’ve experienced myself. It was never easy going from one country to another, but football was always the key to my happiness. I’ve seen how many people it brings together. Regardless of where they are from, who they are, how old they are or the color of their skin, it’s all about the passion that they have for the game. What I truly hope for future generations of refugees being housed all around the world is that they get involved in something like Soccer Without Borders. It could change their lives – it certainly changed mine.”
- Warshan Hussin
All of Warshan’s worries simply floated away as he joined the other panelists in telling their stories. The inspiration we have brought back to Baltimore is insurmountable. Warshan will continue being translator for new SWB families and wants to dedicate more time to coaching our high school boys. This experience has deepened our commitment to making Baltimore a more welcoming, diverse, and equitable community. Scroll to the 1 hour 20 minute mark to hear Warshan's speech!