Refugee football coach: 'Meeting Ronaldo was historic'

Refugee football coach: 'Meeting Ronaldo was historic'
Blog: We caught up with Osama Abdul-Moshen, the Syrian refugee football coach who was infamously tripped by a Hungarian journalist, to talk about his experiences and future plans.
3 min read
02 Oct, 2015
Zaid (right) was welcomed onto Real Madrid's pitch by Cristiano Ronaldo himself [Helios delaRubia/Real Madrid]

Osama al-Abdul Mohsen, the Syrian refugee who was tripped by Hungarian journalist Petra Laszlo, has gained international media attention after the video of his encounter changed his life and led to the journalist being fired.

Spain's Football Coach Training Centre (Cenafe) sponsored Abdul-Mohsen to move to Spain from Germany to continue his work as a football coach.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed
contacted Abdul-Mohsen to find out more about his future plans after his escape from the Syrian war in search of a country that would allow him to lead a dignified life.

He started his coaching career at the Syrian football club, al-Futuwa SC, in 2004, where he worked at the club's training academy in the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor.

He described his most enjoyable time at the club when he was coaching the children's team, after which he was sent to various coaching camps to develop his skills.

Leaving Syria

Osama said he left al-Futuwa SC despite the club still competing in the Syrian Premier League because "the Syrian Premier League has become a political league and not a sports championship".

     This incident might be a way for me to speak out and defend refugees and Syria people in general
- Osama Abdul-Mohsen

Many league players have had to leave the country since the start of the war, he said, "which has resulted in the collapse of many teams - while the teams currently competing are composed of pro-Assad players who are paid to give the impression that sports events are taking place and things are getting better".

He described the media attention that he currently enjoys as being "by the grace of god and not due to the actions of the racist Hungarian journalist".

"I oppose her being described as the reason for what is currently happening with me. Especially since she had the audacity to do what she did because of the bad treatment of refugees by Hungarian authorities," said Abdul-Mohsen.

"This incident might be a way for me to speak out and defend refugees and Syria people in general," he added.

"The newspaper [Laszlo worked for] contacted me but I did not accept any apology for the incident. I view the issue more broadly and my objective is to publicise the issue of Syrian people. I have gotten over the incident but I will not concede my rights."

The number 7

Real Madrid, one of Europe's most famous football teams, invited Osama and his eight-year-old son, Zaid, to a league match against Granada.

To the pair's immense surprise, star striker Cristiano Ronaldo invited the young Zaid onto the pitch.

"Meeting Ronaldo? It was an historic moment for my son," said Abdul-Mohsen.

Zaid, who was being carried in his father's arms in the now-viral video, is - like many his age and above - an avid football fan, and was over the moon to meet the football superstar and receive a signed shirt.

Abdul-Mohsen's eldest son is also a football player who used to play for the Syrian national youth team prior to the war - he did not make the journey to Europe with his father, but stayed behind in Turkey.

     The Syrian coach has received a number of offers to continue his training career in Spain

"Arrangements are being made to bring him to Spain in the coming period and he will be tested here and trained in a Spanish football club to develop his talent," said Abdul-Mohsen.

The Syrian coach has received a number of offers to continue his training career in Spain, but his first priority is learning Spanish.

He said he received a number of offers to coach in Europe - but has not received any offers from Arab countries, even after international media spread his story far and wide.