Passion Makes Perfect
Sometimes, the existence of a simple tennis table in a refugee camp can open up a new path full of opportunities for a family. Nahide and her family had been living in Syria and her father had been working as a football coach. As the crisis in Syria escalated, they had to flee the country together. When they left their home in Hama in 2013, they had no clue what they can accomplish as a family.
First, they stayed at a refugee camp near Turkey’s Hatay province. During their stay at the camp, Nahide’s father Zakariya gathered the kids around the tennis table and taught them how to play. Back then, his daughter Nahide was 8 years old, and she was one of the kids who played table tennis for the first time in her life thanks to his fathers' efforts. As the number of kids gathering around the table increased day by day, the manager of the camp realized Zakariya could be employed as a trainer. So, Zakariya started working as a physical education teacher at the Hatay Directorate of the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Here, he is training the table tennis team of the Provincial Directorate of the Ministry of Family Labour and Social Services. He works with table tennis players including Turkish and Syrian children under protection, and he is contributing to their development.
IOM Turkey Shelter and Community Stabilization teams first met the family when they were rehabilitating a school building in Antakya. They learned that many children were practising table tennis with limited equipment, and some of them are promising athletes with great potential. Then, in cooperation with the Hatay Directorate of the Ministry of Family Labour and Social Services, they supported these children by providing the professional equipment they needed such as shoes, rackets and balls. In 2019, a dedicated young athlete from the group, Nahide attended the country championship and she became the country champion. She earned the right of representing Turkey at the World Championship, when things get back to normal, she will be representing the country in several tournaments in Germany, Luxembourg and France.
Nahide describes her happiness by saying that “Even representing Hatay was great for me, then I ended up becoming the country champion. At the final round I played with a girl from Istanbul, first I thought that I could not make it and then I trusted myself and made it happen.” She adds that believing in herself made her better in many ways, during the tournaments she had a match in which her competitor was ahead by 10 scores and then she won the match by not giving up the game.
Her father Zakariya mentions that her success inspired and encouraged Nahide’s Turkish and Syrian friends. Currently, her close friend stays with them to train with Nahide regularly. She is one of the Turkish players in the team, and she also wants to become a successful player like Nahide. Sports keep them together and make them learn from each other. While they play together, they also show a great example of social cohesion as members of migrant and host community members. However, Nahide says that playing with her elder sisters is always more competitive because her elder sisters are also very successful players and her role models.
Although pandemic restricted her daily routine, she still practices three times a day five days of the week while she is keeping up with her classes. She is also a very successful student and she wants to either become a table tennis trainer or a pharmacist in the future. She adds that “In either way, I would never stop playing table tennis because it taught me to keep going in every condition. So, my recommendation to all athletes who face challenges in their life is just don’t give up, keep playing!”