Bloods number 1 keeper Floyd Croll, speaks of his exeperience of The Calais Refugee Camp.
In his own words:
Accurate, non-biased and detailed report from The Calais Refugee Camp by Floyd Croll.
It's hard to put into words what spending 9 hours in the Calais Refugee camp does to you. To put it simply it does 2 main things.
1: Breaks down all your personal barriers, many help since childhood.
2: Shocks you at how poor the conditions are given how close it is to Western Europe. Close. What am I talking about it is IN Western Europe.
The welcome you receive when entering the camp is warmer than many people experience at Christmas time. You are not only greeted with smiles and hellos but also handshakes and pats on the back. A far cry from David Cameron's description of these people as a "Swarm". But I'm sure you didn't me to tell you how far from reality this former Eton Boy is.
The camp houses many people who have been fleeing some horrendous warzones such as those in Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. These people are not looking for a 3 bedroomed house in Southend for Free and some cheeky benefits to buy a nice flat screen television. No. They are escaping war. Yes WAR. Something not just confined to history books but an active and deadly part of 21st century life. Unless you are from Western Europe of course.
As a former football player I entered the camp with one main goal and 15 footballs. Within 2 minutes I was down to just the one, a beautiful Pink Sondico Football worth about £5. One you would often see left in a bush in England as it's not worth retrieving from the Blackberry Bush.
When you see images in the paper of refugees (sorry Daily Mail readers that is not a mis-quote) entering Europe on over-crowded Boats it is easy to de-humanise the faces pictured. Easier still we can pretend that they know the risks and it's their mistake for taking such a risk. This implies an element of choice. Once again I repeat these people are escaping deadly situations in their home country. With reference to the famous Eddie Izzard Canteen Sketch. Your choice is "Cake or Death".......and we have run out of cake today.
During my 9 hours in the camp I must have played football with over 100 different men. Men the mass media in The UK suggest we should fear. Afghans, Sudanese, Eritreans, Iraqis, Egyptians and Pakistanis. Yet I can tell you first hand I have never enjoyed playing football so much despite being "nut-megged" several times. These people played with such joy, laughter and commitment that it became easy to forget that many had risked their lives to get here, that they will be sleeping in a shack built with wood and bin bags or even that many are playing barefoot. It felt like I was playing football in "the third world" with these conditions. Yet we are playing 2 hours from London.
Many of the people here have no possessions or belongings, yet during my time here I was cooked 3 meals and even made a cup of tea with Sugar by some very gentlemanly Sudanese chaps.
The camp does has some volunteers and a very minimal (and grumpy as hell) police presence but this accounts for many 30 or so people. It just doesn't seem that Calais is a popular destination for The Celebrity philanthropists that one may see in locations like Kenya for example. Yet this is happening so close to home.
Please do not think that these people want to be here. They don't. So much so that many risk their lives to escape. Throughout the camp you see young men on crutches, with limps or "gammy legs". Many of these injuries have occurred from falling off the security fences and even worse have happened whilst these men have risks lives on the Channel Tunnel train tracks. One gentleman from Sudan showed me the mark left after a train nearly cut him in half. Again do you really think he would take such a risk just to sit in the dole office?!!!!
Finally, one thing that is evident within the camp is the lack of animosity between the different nationalities of the camp. National flags, although flown proudly, do not have as much value when compared to survival, humanity and brotherhood.
Tomorrow I will return to the camp with my pink Football but I urge you to reconsider your views on why these people are here and how YOU, yes you right there can help.