I'm delighted to announce that my photograph 'Arshia Ghorbani, 16, Toxteth, Liverpool' has won first prize in the inaugural FC Barcelona Photo Awards. The awards were set up to "celebrate the positive intrinsic values common to sport and culture and to communicate the importance and contribution of those values to current society." Arshia’s story is an example of the power of sport in society and a testament to the kind of community spirit that I experience all around the world and especially in Liverpool. It is that spirit of humanity, of welcoming and of togetherness that so enriches our society and must, in the end, prevail over those that spread hate and isolationism.
Arshia is an asylum seeker from Iran now living in Liverpool while he waits for his refugee status to be assessed. As a teenager he has many challenges to face to fit into a new community and new society, not least the challenge of learning a new language and continuing his education in a strange environment. The first thing he did when he came to Liverpool was play football as a way to make new friends and feel accepted. He plays for Kingsley United in Toxteth, known as Liverpool's 'most diverse' football team. He is sixteen years old and tells his story in his own words: he has written his testimony/caption in his native language: Farsi.
An English translation follows:
Hello My name is Arshia Ghorbani and I was born in 01.02.2000. That means that I am 16 years old now. I’m happy person normally but sometimes I can get angry as well. The only thing that I do cheerfully and lovingly is football. I started playing football with an adult team since I was 8 years old which made me good progress in football. I have a lot of plans and dreams, too many!! I like go to school and learning. I really enjoyed of my school and it’s lovely staff and never want to leave the school. I know that all people can’t reach they dreams. It is difficult and hard work to access my dreams. To be a surgeon doctor is one of my main aims. I am good at learning and understanding in school. My first language is one of my main barriers between me and my dreams. It is now just 3 years that I am living in UK, but even now I can’t understand some of the written words; on the other hand I can speak English very well. One of my other problems is that we can’t go on holiday, we are not allowed to travel, we can’t buy a car even if we had the money, as my Dad is not allowed to get a licence, and we don’t have permission for work. That all means we can’t make any decision for our future because we are asylum seekers. That all makes a teenage boy like me to be in desperation and stressful which is not good at my age. Unfortunately I can’t go to university because I am asylum seeker. I know it’s not the UK government fault, but if we think I had potential to be a doctor in future and I could save hundreds of humans lives. I like to help people and made smile on their face who poor and need help. That is the thing other people do for me when I was in need. Anyway I keep going on with the hope and the stress. I don’t let any problem keep me away from my dreams. I can’t and don’t want to make blame on my family or anyone for the situation I have. You must know that nothing is reached easily in the life and you must try hard. If it was easy everyone would be happy and joyful.
This photograph is part of my early work on a group project I am leading with fifteen other photographers all around the UK. The project 'Sixteen' looks at the experience, ambitions, dreams, hopes and fears of sixteen year olds from all walks of life all around the country.
A large format C-type print measuring 150cm x 94cm will be unveiled at the awards ceremony and exhibition to be held in Barcelona in June.